“I AM” (Friday, 4 February, Paris Groups, 1944, PtXVII)

A.E. said that he could not distinguish the interior from the exterior life. Gurdjieff replied that it was simple: the interior life is the life which do one else can know, not even parents or brother: what you alone know, think and decide. The exterior is ordinary life, expression, and manifestation. You are the object of influences: if someone looks at you with their left eye, and you feel it with your right eye, that is exterior. (I am not sure what he means: I think this is a way of referring to mechanical actions and reactions.) (80)

A.E. said that what he meant was that in exterior life he had faced difficult obstacles. Mme de Salzmann began to translate, indicating once more that Gurdjieff’s French was not that good. However, Gurdjieff stopped her before she had finished, saying he understood. The problem, he said, was that A.E. had the same barriers internally: inside, outside, they are the same. With experience and practice, however, he could make progress against both types, so that he would have a true interior and a true exterior. (80-81).

Then, A.E. asked “Don’t I have to put some work into each step I take in the exterior life?” (Je ne dois pas mettre le travail à chaque pas que he fais dans la vie extérieure?). An intriguing way of putting it. Gurdjieff replied:

You have to put it everywhere. Do it as a service. If you do not do it, you will never fulfil your obligations well. It is necessary to treat everything mathematically. You recall I once spoke about how the interior path is: we are here, but our goal is the Place de l’Étoile. It is dark. You set out for the Étoile, over there. You choose your path through the streets. You are going to the Étoile, and so you look out for its streetlights. But before that point, there are many other streetlights. You know your goal. You forget the right direction, but you know you are heading for the Étoile. You cannot keep the streetlights of the Étoile in view, but you can see those of the first corner. All your attention is on those first streetlights. You are careful: you don’t want to fall – there is the footpath, and there is a hole. All your attention is on these first street lights. When you have reached the first streetlights, then you think about the second. That is now your goal, the Russian restaurant on the corner, then the bakery. Each time you reach one streetlight, you look in the direction of the Étoile streetlights. Then you forget them; you know where they are. In this way, little by little, you have the possibility of arriving at the Étoile. But if you are always looking towards the Étoile, you will bang into a house, or into a streetlight, or against something else. You will hurt yourself and never arrive at the Étoile. It is a good example. (81-82)

Gurdjieff continued the illustration, repeating that one had to both know the fair aim but to keep the near aim in one’s sight. (82)

Mme T. said that one is always desiring to see beyond the next lights. Gurdjieff replied that then she would never arrive. There are many barriers, some of which are hidden.” On a thousand occasions you will find your face smashed in (vous serez cassé la figure) but you won’t even be half-way along the path. (82)

N.L. said that he was wasting time. Also, he often sensed his weaknesses, but could make no headway. (82) Gurdjieff replied:

At the beginning, all errors, all paths are good. You are on the true road. You are young, you don’t know much. Apply to yourself the advice I gave about the streetlights. At the same time, there exists a law: no work is accomplished in vain. That applies to everything. (Now), you do not understand why, but later you will understand that without that you would never have been able to acquire that which you have (acquired). (82-83)

In the meantime, you have a way, a protector, a saviour: “I AM.” Each time you have some doubt, an idea (that it is hopeless) or something like that, relax, remember yourself, and say: “I AM.”

These things prevent you from keeping on the straight path, they make you go off to the right or to the left. But “I AM” will bring you back to the way. You lose on day, and you think that all is lost. But if you think impartially, you will see that you have only lost some material, that nothing (real) has been lost, and that you will even be given other possibilities.

N.L. then stated that he had problems really feeling remorse. Gurdjieff replied that the “master-way” (maître-moyen) was, when in a calm state, to relax himself, and then return to the past, remembering all his manifestations, and the results of those manifestations, including the bad ones. Then, give yourself your word not to do in the future as you have done in the past. That is a way: with the present, prepare the past. “You try to repair by seeing how you must act in the future.” (83)

And in such situations, do not forget “I AM.” It can be your symbol, giving you sureness until the next moment comes. “I AM” is a good way, but not theoretically, only in your head, but rather with all your presence. To do it with all your presence, you must habituate yourself to it. “Relax, think, remember your aim.” Say “I AM.” Feel your presence, and let associations go on. That is the only road for you until you come to the next streetlight. Gurdjieff then said:

Last Friday I gave an exercise, at certain moments, it is “I” who am acting, and at others it is me as I am accustomed to act and think. Have you done this? How did you exercise?

This exercise does not appear in the transcript as we have it. The transcripts are clearly incomplete.Gurdjieff continued:

What observations have you made in struggling along this line? Do you feel that your understanding has grown? Look back. Understanding is the measure of the progress you have made.

You must understand today that to work, to increase this “I,” to give it force, you must be free to work, but you are never free. This liberty must become an aim: for one minute at first, then for two, then five. Then I can look to find what my greatest identifications are, those which interiorly prevent me from being entirely present. I wish to be free to work, to work to be. If I am not free, I can not be. “I” needs being. “I” is weak. “I” lacks wish. Whatever is foreign to this is an opponent, an enemy. Which has more force: it or me? It is a ruthless struggle. Until I come to that struggle, I have never struggled. “I” has been sleeping in my body, the habitual “me” uses up all my forces. But when “I” awake it has need of those forces. How will I employ them? The other has all the forces, but it does not know how to protect them, or to use them. (84)


One comment

  1. This is interesting. When I first read it my first thoughts were…

    What distinction is…. I and ME.

    Im thinking maybe it is like…. I from it.

    I think it was in the 1943 meetings where he said the beginning of “I” was the separation of an independent head, unattached from the body and feeling.

    That this independent head was the start of one’s individuality. The start of I.

    Then I automatically thought that if we did start that individuality, the beginning of I, this separation, that it’s needs force, like it is mentioned above.

    Im thinking this aspect of ourselves is hardly ever free free from the identification of body and feeling and I would presume it needs being and is weak.

    He also seems to mention this liberation should be our aim……to liberate this newly acquired I, this separation of ‘head’, liberating it from body and feeling.

    I wonder if this is related to the first liberation talked about in the first series?

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