Being a “Clever Dick” (Saturday 12 November 1988 Pt IV)

The next question at the lunch table came from Frizzy, who said that she had been dissatisfied with her efforts that day, and at the stops she had not not open. Yet she had been enjoying the job, in the garden, but something had happened at the stops.

Were you not quite ready?”

Yes, I didn’t feel as if I had worked for it.”

And now,” continued Mr Adie, “have you been wondering about it, or have you been receiving what was said?”

I’ve been listening, and it helped. What you were saying about keeping your aim before you has helped.”

“Yes,” said Mr Adie: “I have an aim, at least I have formulated one. But what happens? Do I have any feeling of myself in relation to it, when I remember it? Or does it just flash in my head without any inner engagement? There are thousands and thousands of representations of the process of remembering and forgetting. It is full of layers of density and fineness. And as you come to yourself, the spectrum of density and fineness widens, tremendously. If I can have a sense of I, a division of my attention between myself and what I am doing, I start to become impartial to the process, there is all this before me”.

“Time comes into it. Time becomes shorter and shorter, the possibilities become more and more. It becomes a great fact. That is available to everybody, if only they can work in a simple way and glimpse it. Effort.”

I will pause there a moment, because there is a very great truth in this: when Mr Adie says “Time becomes shorter and shorter, the possibilities become more and more,” he means, I believe, that as the experience of time becomes experiences of a flash of higher presence, this higher presence localised right here within me, with good feeling and no ordinary thoughts turning, then, my possibilities increase because I am relatively present, and that means relatively free.

These flashes of necessity are short: no lightning bolt can possibly light up the sky for half an hour. There is a split-second of stunning intensity, then it is gone, but something of the vision remains. So it is here, in the inner world. But just as the young man in Stevenson’s Kidnapped saw in a lightning flash that his life was in danger, and was able to avoid the chasm which was before him, so we can see in one burst of illumination, where we are, what the dangers may be, and find a way to surpass our usual limitations.

Then Derek spoke. He had been in the men’s room, and made a joke, when Blinky asked if Jim was there. I made a joke. “Then I criticised myself: “You smart-arse”, I said to myself”.

Yes, you’re an automatism,” Mr Adie agreed. “I share that kind of thing with you, that Clever Dick habit. Smart thing. You see automatism. What is important about that?”


“You have totally lost your position in the Work. It’s all gone. Just that. Justifiable from an ordinary point of view, comic remark. All our serious work is gone. It is just comic. At that level of your mind, it is automatic. Just a habit”.

“We’re struggling to get out of the grip of that. There is no harm in that, but another kind of question, and it can be terribly black; it is also automatic. I’ve got to overcome this unseen automatism, whatever it is. That is where you saw this comic thing. I am apt to dismiss that and say: “Oh well, it’s done no harm.” But in point of fact it’s just as bad as anything else from the point of view of your acquiring a power over your automatism. That’s the important thing to see.”

“It could even be useful at times if you were to see it. If someone were in a gloomy state, a comic remark might be able to cheer him up, but you wouldn’t be in a position to do it because it is completely automatic”.

Hymie mentioned that he had started thinking about the other jobs he’d be doing in his ordinary life.

While you’re wasting your time doing gardening here?”


I know”. Incidentally, that was humorous.

Hymie added that he saw himself totally identified with his planning. There was no thought of inner work. “Suddenly”, he said: “I just saw  my …” and he ran out of words.

Sleep,” offered Mr Adie. “You saw your sleep. Nothing worse. There is nothing worse”.

I saw that I was nothing just nothing,” said Hymie. He said that he had started to get something from his job here, which was sweeping. As the day went on, he “felt more weight”.

Were you still sweeping?” asked Mr Adie. “Sweeping is a very interesting job. It shows a lot. There are hundreds of different ways of sweeping. I mean, you can sweep briskly, or you can sweep a little bit slower. Or you can sweep for a quarter of an hour on a tiny little step if you want to get every tiny little scrap. The steps here get shorter and shorter as they get to the bottom, and it can be done very precisely”.

“It is one of the jobs which shows the most. You can tell from a half a mile away whether a person is working while they are sweeping. Sweeping can be extremely interesting, one of the difficult jobs, sweeping. It lies with the sweeper whether he does any work or just dreams, and one of the indications is the speed of the broom. One cannot maintain a crisp, effective sweeping without attention”.

“Then, when you enter a room, or come upon a landing which has been swept, you can sense if there has been any presence at all while it was done. You find that? You can sense whether it was frenetically hurried or if it was carefully attended to, ordered. Cleaned.”

“Sometimes with physical work, where there is something like a demand to carry a lot of stone, and six, eight or ten people take part, is a good job. One man works with the other, follows the other, and one gets drawn into the common effort and feels a sort of comradeship about it. But one cannot always arrange that kind of work”.

“But what you saw in the morning was that you lack intention. If you have a certain attitude, you started with that, and something in you accepted it, it was compelled because of your history, that can go on and on until something stops it. It is quite automatic unless I have some intention”.

I felt at once, that what Mr Adie had said about sweeping was true. I am reminded of it whenever I read the old Compline for Friday. It is the Vulgate version of Psalm 77 (76 in the V. numbering): “And I meditated in the night with my own heart. and I was exercised, and I swept my spirit.” It is, apparently, a mistranslation of the Hebrew original. But if it is, it was made by a spiritual master, who expressed a great truth of spiritual experience.

Joseph Azize, 1 October 2018

One comment

  1. “…you can sense if there has been any presence at all while it was done.” …I am reminded of a somewhat cynical person who visited the Prieure recently and grudgingly recalled, “I could feel and sense ‘something’ as I walked around there.”

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