A Socratic Exchange with George Adie (5 March 1987 Pt IV)

This is the final instalment of the meeting of Thursday 5 March 1987. Jacques had said that he wanted to see his thought and use the tongue exercise to remind him, to see how his mind functioned.

Mr Adie was interested: “What did you discover about your tongue? People say they are going to use their tongue, but they never say what they found.”

“Not very much, actually.”

“Then it’s easy, in that case, to say what you found.”

It was often pushed up and tense, and it was often pushed up to one side,” Jacques volunteered.

Alright, let us suppose you observed accurately. You say your tongue was “pushed up and tense”. That must mean something. What was it connected with?”

“I didn’t see that.”

There you are, there is your work. Your work is to observe the condition and posture of your tongue in relation to what is going on. You have to observe it, and observe it, and observe it. You cannot expect to get the answer at the first glance. You have a real work before you now. You must have more points of reference. You can’t possibly discover anything about the complicated machinery of all this with just one glimpse, or with just one exercise.”

“Yet, any one incident can show you a great deal. Don’t forget that in trying to use the body, your sense increases, it includes more, and that we have five – in fact seven– organs of sensing. Go on and explore, tongue, taste, smell and touch … Have you ever associated your sense of smell, how you use it, with an emotional state? No?”

Jacques said that he had not, other than by association.

But what a thought! I have to discover the meaning of my sensitivity and my sense impressions. To have an emotional condition, does my sense of taste entirely disappear?”

“I am not there enough to ask, but that would tell me a great deal. And I need to be relaxed for that. For that work I have got to be alert and poised, really interested in what I have got to do. At the same time, I go on with the building or whatever it is that I am doing. I can’t stop.”

“Can you sense your tongue if it’s moving?” After a moment, Mr Adie added: “There are one million questions around it, and you have but one tongue. I must sense it. The tongue is a gate. It is an unruly member. It is a gate. It can arrest the passage of forces or it can admit them. Forces flowing up or forces flowing down.”

“Your question is answered, isn’t it?”


The next question was from Angie, an actress, who said that she had been very busy and  observed herself in the middle of great tension. “It is like I am rehearsing all the time.”

“You never need to be like that,” replied Mr Adie. “Anyway, were you able to formulate a question about it?”

Angie seemed at a loss, and eventually asked: “Should I observe more or form a plan?”

I am sorry, but surely both are needed, and surely both are related to each other. If you have no observations, to what will your plan relate? And if you have a plan, then that will help you make more and clearer observations. Do you see? But now if you are asking whether you should make a plan or not, it is too elementary. You do not need anyone to tell you. You know enough after these years to know to form one, and to try. You might even have an idea. If you have one, try. Experiment. What made you ask this kind of question?”

There was a silence.

“Savour the quality of the question. It is not very deep, is it?”


You need to know that. Hang onto that fact, and examine it. Too much personality, even now. Do you suspect what I see?”

The final question was from Max. This is “Socratic Exchange” of the title. It was a step in a true  education. He said that he had experienced an agony of tension in his face and chest which is habitual, and a knitted forehead almost all the time.

Why not start taking those apart a bit? Could you relax the tension in the head while retaining the tension in the chest? Then change it around. You’ll soon find out whether you can or not.”


“Don’t you see how you were talking?” asked Mr Adie. “You mentioned four parts. What are they?”

“My face, my mouth, my chest …”

And you sensed?”

I sense repeated tension in those parts.”

If you put attention on your toe you will probably also find tension there. There has to be some tension, there has to be some relaxation, there has to be a balance.”

Max replied that the facial tension related to self-satisfaction, and that he could not shake the tension in the chest.

Can you sense your toe?”


Are you sure?”


Is it very strong?”


Then do you not find that you have forgotten about your chest, all because you gave attention to your toe?”

I did, yes.”

My attention fluctuates. I don’t seem to be able to learn about my attention at all. It is like the tongue of an adder, flickering here and there. I don’t need to look for hours, to see if the tree moves, or something like that.”

“And observe, also, this sort of repertory that you’ve got – tongue and head and chest – agony in the chest, agony in the head.”

We laughed: it was true of all of us. Mr Adie continued: “Is it really like that? Move a little bit. Stop writing books when it’s not necessary. Our work is not that. You write books, or try to? We mustn’t do that in our work, not in that way. Making a few notes is useful. And different. Try and look at it differently. It doesn’t matter if one morning you do so – risk it.”

“Neither must I be tense when I am inside. This is my responsibility, my work. So, if I have a suggestion, do I try it or not? Maybe I try it, but with a wish to understand. And I don’t want to become a psychopath, and have it written down that I have this problem and this and this and this. It is much more difficult our work – very difficult, but possible. A great relief isn’t it? Very difficult but possible.”

“What about courage in relation to that? Does it mean that I need less courage?”

Silence followed.

“Perhaps I need more, but I shan’t make good if I only wish to be free of fear. I must have a positive side, too. I must also experience courage, and confidence.”

“Well, I think we will stop there. Try and work. Try and find your own way to work. And then bring. Don’t worry about how it’s going to be received, even if it’s only half a thing. Everybody who brought something tonight should have received something. And even if they didn’t, the others did. Make it a real serious work.”

Joseph Azize, 8 November 2018

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