Working sensibly, (Thursday 23 November 1944, Paris Groups, Pt XLIII)

Thursday 23 November 1944

previously unpublished

(Reading: Solovieff)

Gurdjieff: What time is it?

Mme T.   Half past nine.

Gurdjieff: Who has important questions? Not subjective questions. Questions which interest everyone. About the exercises. Have you realised something?

(Mr Gurdjieff speaks in Russian)

If there are no questions, let us read. Why (just sit) there like idiots?

G.M.   I have done the exercise which consists of feeling the “I” in the different parts of the body. It has greatly helped me to in the a sensation of myself, but I am bothered by associations which do not allow me to be free of them.

Gurdjieff: It is difficult. You (can) only succeed little by little. You have to concentrate your attention on this exercise. It is a very good exercise for you. It is uniquely (beneficial) for you. (318)

Together with that, have you felt that you are quite a different person? I am happy for you, you have a chance. It is not necessary to succeed in one stroke. The more that you concentrate, the less your associations will disturb you. Try to struggle. Send them to the devil. It will also give you energy (force) for another quality. That will help you to crystallise energies for your will.

Mlle E.   In (trying to) control associations I have noticed the existence of many layers. Once one has seen (reconnu) one first layer, then one sees a second.

Gurdjieff: We have three independent series of automatic associations in us, three stages. As on a reel, it unrolls itself. The factors are crystallised in three places: head, (solar plexus), the spinal cord. In each of these three places there exist independent lives which engender reciprocal shocks. When your centre of gravity is displaced, the associations (then) come from another series.

Mlle E.   How can one see more and penetrate this second layer?

Gurdjieff: When you think with your thought and at the same time mobilise your feeling and your sensation, you bring these associations into the light.

Mlle E.   At ordinary times, and not when concentrating?

Gurdjieff: You can do it always. The nature of one such series comes from feeling. One must feel to see more.

Mlle E.   The only thing that I have been able to recognise is that many associations belong to memories of childhood with no connection with the present.

Gurdjieff: You know, all the brains crystallise factors at the same time. (319) With emotion, you feel something, (and) at the same time in another place something is also crystallised. It also creates a series of analogues. If the first is unrolled, the second finds itself awoken.

Dr H.   My Gurdjieff, you gave me (as an exercise over) eight days, the task of working for 12 noon to 2.00 p.m.

Gurdjieff: Why do you say from 12 noon to 2.00 p.m.? It is an exercise I have given you. Now everyone is going to think that this period is good for work.

Dr H.   I have realised the difficulty of fixing my attention on the task that I am engaged in doing, always on account of associations which wish to be mixed in. On the other hand, bodily fatigue makes the work absolutely impossible. There is something I have not understood: when I remember myself, I relax (lit. make decontraction) and then I can no longer do anything else. I would like to know how to proceed in that case.

Gurdjieff: You have realised that between 12 noon and 2.00 p.m. your associations are not the same because you are eating?

Dr H.   Yes, I eat. When I have lunch I work without any special exercise.

Gurdjieff: I wanted to know if one thing (exerts an) influence on another.

Dr H.   Even outside these periods, I perceive that as soon as I try to do something about my presence, I am immediately disturbed by an association.

Gurdjieff: Everyone can constate that. M. has just realised that. This proves that you do it half consciously. The more you do it consciously, the less any associations disturb you. (320)

Dr H.   Yes, but when I remember myself without doing anything else, I am less bothered, (while) in everyday life I am very distracted.

Gurdjieff: Everyday life is another matter, and does not interest me.

Mme de Salzmann: You should do this work and not do anything else.

(Dr H says that he must have been misunderstood, his question not grasped.)

Gurdjieff: I remember now that the question you asked was about thought and why I said between 12 noon and 2.00 p.m. You have already realised many things. You can constate even more, Collect material. Continue, and we will speak afterwards.

[To me, this transcript was quite surprising, even unsettling. Neither Gurdjieff nor Mme de Salzmann had understood the doctor’s question, or rather, had lost the track of it, hence Gurdjieff’s otherwise incomprehensible reply that he was not interested in what the doctor found in everyday life, when this was the area in which Gurdjieff had given him the exercise.]

G.M.   Should I especially exercise on relaxing my head when not doing any of the exercises you have given?

Gurdjieff: You can, but not only, and, I advise, never the head alone. Now, for example, if you decide to relax (relâcher) your head, relax it before or after another part of the body. The circulation of the blood must return to normal. Without it, you will end up becoming obsessed.

Mme T.   Is this so for everyone? I do it only with the head, and I feel tired.

Gurdjieff: Yes, it is good advice for everyone. If you always do it with the head alone, it can give a bad result. The brain, the head, is delicate.

Mme T.   Can I remark on the presence to have when making a decision in life? (321) You have told me that when I take a decision, I should write on a sheet of paper the problems and difficulties which could arise.

(Mr Gurdjieff speaks in Russian)

Gurdjieff: I did not say that.

Mme T.   Yes.

Gurdjieff: For a decision, I have said that it is necessary to prepare, weigh, and decide.

S.R.   I would like to ask a question on my relations with others. I have seen that I do not treat them equally; at certain times I am relatively open and understanding, (but) at other moments I am completely indifferent to them. In the best moments, when my feeling has been touched, I take some action, I do something, but I cannot sustain them. It sets of a series of misunderstandings.

Gurdjieff:   It is like that for everyone. You must change the state of these things. Work consists in that. Take a task. Force yourself. You are a hysterical woman among others. You have five Saturdays (sic, “samedis”) in one week. Take a task, with which person like this with which person like that. Force yourself. Always force yourself. Today you can work only to become.

S.R.   Can I take a task with some people only?

Gurdjieff: Ten, a hundred, a thousand. … Exterior life does not interest me. You are as you are. What you have just said, all the world knows. You have eaten well, so you have good relations with someone. If not, it is the opposite. If someone looks at you with their right eye, you are in one (322) humour, (but) with the left eye in another humour. Then take your tasks. Do exercises. Fix in yourself a will to direct your functioning. Today, it depends on diverse things: food, offences, the manner in which you are spoken to.

Mlle E.   I have tried to do this for a long time. I have been thinking that the aim of choosing one person concerns the form of identification with which this person carries me along when I am doing something when I do not pay attention. That was for me the aim.

Gurdjieff: It is possible. What is necessary now is practice. It is one aim among others. Exercise yourself. Learn to establish a relation.

Mlle G.  I have done this exercise of relaxing (décontraction) of the forehead, and I have noticed different things. I had at first the sensation that the sounds reached my forehead but did not go beyond it. I have felt a very great force in my forehead.

Gurdjieff: Do not pay attention to that. You have a task. Do not analyse it. Do not philosophise. Your constations interest neither me nor anyone else.  Put them on one side, and work as if someone is paying you for it. Do not think of one thing only: as soon as you want to manifest, just remember yourself and relax (relâcher) your head.

Mlle B.   I would like to say to Mr Gurdjieff that when I have been remembering, a sensation of concentration stays in my head, it makes me tired, is an inconvenience, and is a cause of error.

Gurdjieff: Perhaps you are doing it (only) theoretically. It is necessary to do it with all your presence. (323)

Mlle B.   Yes, I try and force myself to do that.

Gurdjieff: Take a task. Remember yourself often (but) not for long. Do not manipulate with your head. If it still happens, concentrate your attention on your foot.

Mlle B.  It is precisely one thing that I find it difficult to do.

Gurdjieff:   You cannot? Then try exactly that. Your right foot. Relax (relâchez) consciously your foot to finish your remembering. Before finishing, do this little exercise. The right foot, not the leg. (324)

(End of meeting, end of book.)

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