In Life Is Real Only Then, When “I Am,” Gurdjieff presented three exercises, the Soil Preparing and the First and Second Assisting Exercises. I have dealt with these in the book Gurdjieff: Mysticism, Contemplation, and Exercises, and shall not set out their terms here. However, I see them as being paradigmatic for the series of exercises Gurdjieff brought, and which comprised, I believe, what he called Aiëssirittoorassnian-contemplation. The First Assisting Exercise is, in my view, the template of the Collected State Exercise, and the various forms in which it was given. He brought the exercise in diverse forms, always experimenting and exploring.
We might not be erring too far if we say that the C.S.E. consists in directing the attention so that one is present to one’s sensation, feeling, and thought together. One of the properties of the Collected State is that it is relatively relaxed. Also, one is more easily aware of one’s breathing and the circulation of the blood, of one’s posture, and of one’s aim. One does not think about one’s aim, yet it is an element in one’s presence, so to speak. The C.S.E. and those like it comprise, I suggest, the central octave of Gurdjieff’s contemplative exercises.
I see the Soil Preparing Exercise as being like a piano drill, or a martial arts practice, intended to strengthen or develop certain skills which would be used together with other skills, in an action. These are the first or preparatory octave. As with the C.S.E., he brought the preparatory octave of exercises in various ways, including the Atmosphere, the Deep Muscle Relaxation, and the Three Chairs Exercise. These are all methods which one studies in practice, in depth, on certain occasions. Then, later, when one comes to the C.S.E., all these drills are acknowledged, e.g. one comes within one’s atmosphere, and draws it in, but quickly, and then proceeds to the C.S.E.
The Second Assisting Exercise is, as I see it, the paradigm of the third octave of exercises: those which assume the C.S.E. and then go from there to ingest higher energies or hydrogens, to assimilate them, and to direct the movement of energies so that one can better coat the astral (Kesdjan) and mental bodies.
His pupils said very little about these exercises. There are probably as many reasons for this as there are personal pupils. But many of them knew of these exercises. My interest here is a short piece by Henriette Lannes. This is it:
To separate from the associative level we have to contact finer energies. The higher part of the head is full of fine energy – there, there is silence – no words there – no struggle.
Where the feeling of myself connects with the finer energies, they become concentrated. This energy must never be used for anything other than my inner world. The outer world does not need it.
Little by little, and it is a long process. I keep some of these finer energies. I collect them and try not to pour them out. Then they may crystallize and they cannot become mixed with coarse energies. It is slow, patience is needed, and it is the only way to a change in the centre of gravity.
Inside A Question, (Paul H. Crompton, London, 2002), p. 301
I do not think this can be entirely taken as gospel, but it seems to me to be a persuasive confirmation that my take on Gurdjieff’s exercises and that they are essential for his system, is correct. I won’t go into how I would qualify what she writes. I think the value of pondering it, and of using the three exercises in the order they were given, is beyond what the associative mind can imagine.
a very interesting post.