The final exchange was, I believe, a significant one.
The question was from Alice, a very shy woman, who said: “I have as my current aim to try and be open to people.”
“That means to try and consider less,” replied Mr Adie, “to try and not worry about what they think, to try and not have this inner concern about what is said, done, offered. In other words, I want to be free, free to receive impressions, any impressions. So your line now really is to open, to receive the food which can give you life. But I can’t choose which impression. I need to receive all impressions. How can I stop impressions? There’s a little ant crawling around the back. I can’t see it. Presently it will give me a little nip. I can’t stop it. The light changes in intensity or something happens. I can’t stop it, so I might as well open and receive that life, in whatever form it comes, because it can give me as well as take me out.”
“Try and have this impression of the vividness my life can be if I am open. But if I am not, if I am afraid or considering, I am missing life.”
“I know this,” said Alice, “but I feel swamped … and shut in.”
“I live a dream life, with all sorts of problems going on. A dream life. You have to keep on with your effort. And that’s a problem, how can I continue to make this effort, not solid, as it were, but repeating? Just to return to some part of myself that is more alive. What is my posture? When you go to speak to people, what is your posture? You have a posture.”
Alice did not answer directly. Rather, she said that she had seen selfishness in herself.
“If only you could really be selfish, that would be very nice. But “selfishness” is not one self, but many separate “I”s who want this or want that, or refuse this. There is no real self there, so you can’t be selfish. So that is not how to think about it. If you can be there, you can be impartial. If you have anything of value, you can even be willing to give something. But you are not there.”
After a little pause, Mr Adie added: “You can’t expect a pig to think differently. Can you imagine a pig saying: “Oh, no, let some other little animal have it.” It is just the nature of a pig. It is a pig, and that is what a pig is. But if I am there, I can be more than a selfish animal.”
He turned back to Alice, and asked: “Have you lost the line of your question?”
Again, I don’t think Alice gave a direct reply, rather, she said that she had seen some ingratitude in herself.
“Yes, gratitude is a sort of ideal which I can realise,” said Mr Adie. “There is a reality about that word. How do I understand it? What am I to be grateful for? In what direction? To whom? How am I to pay for it? Has there ever been any gratitude in my state? There are a thousand things. It is a vast question.”
“To come to gratitude would mean to recognise that my life is given, not only being given by being born, but being given all the time by these impressions. If I could live with gratitude, this would be very big.”
“But pigs do not live with gratitude. They do not reckon that the poor man had to work to provide them with the trough. Can’t expect them to.”
I point this out only because I am editing the transcript, but for the third time, Alice went off on a tangent: “I do not carry out my plan. I am rushed, and never quiet.”
“You have an added obligation, don’t you, with no small degree of reality?” Mr Adie was applying to the fact that she had not long ago given birth to her first child. “This is part of your life which you hadn’t had before. It’s there, so how can you be to that? Are you going to be impatient, or are you going to accept that? And then you see that I have to live in the circumstances. I can’t go and change my circumstances.”
“I wanted a child. I have been blessed. Here it is. But I didn’t want all this work to do. And I didn’t want this demand for food, which I have to think about in advance, and even then, I may find the cupboard is bare. Rather different from what I had expected. This is where gratitude will come in. There I have to be grateful for this demand.”
“And after all, who objects in me?”
“I am only expanding the line you have brought. It is the right line. Is there still some question?”
“Well, I think that everybody will find that this material has touched their need. Good. Continue. Make a plan. Continue. Don’t get thwarted. Use the counting exercise. That will give you a chance of collecting, of colleting the force of your attention and of dividing it.” This was a reference to the exercise in the Third Series.
“I have to divide my attention, otherwise, you take your question of being grateful. If I don’t, I have to recollect this gratitude and at the same time acknowledge this obligation. So I have to divide the attention, otherwise I can be so grateful the baby can starve through neglect. It’s true.”
Mr Adie now turned to the meeting as a whole: “Try and use the material. It’s there. She has hers, you have yours, and I have mine. Be present to that material and to myself, and use this challenge, this material. I have to have both. I cannot become like the Buddha. That is not our work. Maybe ultimately. But life here, life there. Try and work like that all the time.”
“I haven’t got to be hours and hours, but let the moments which I do have be real. I don’t know how long we will have just this line, but we will always have this work to do. It becomes more and more interesting. Good.”
There is so much rich material here. One clarification, when Mr Adie answered Alice about the receipt of impressions, he was responding to her question about being more open. She said that she was too often closed. So Mr Adie was addressing just that situation. But on other occasions he would speak about guarding the purity of our impressions. I recall that he mentioned this phrase several times. He meant by it being vigilant not to allow ourselves to indulge in curiosity about lower impressions. In The Fourth Way, it is recorded that Ouspensky was asked about the impressions we receive, and whether they can be harmful. His reply was quite profound: “There are many wrong impressions which may spoil one’s whole life if one admits them for a sufficiently long time, or if one has the habit of looking for certain bad impressions. For instance, people stand in the street looking at a street accident, and then talk about it until the next accident. These people collect wrong impressions. People who gather all kinds of scandal, people who see something wrong in everything – they also collect wrong impressions. You have to think about … isolating yourself from wrong impressions. Only by doing this will you have a certain control.” (p.228)
That is the only matter I thought could benefit from some elaboration. But looking back now, it is so interesting how Alice’s mind worked, turning from one matter to another. I wondered, hearing it, whether she benefitted from it as she might have had she brought one line and followed that to a practical conclusion? It is had to judge, but it does not hurt to interrogate our own thought patterns: we might not be fulfilling our intellectual potentials.
Joseph Azize, 18 July 2018