Jane Heap on Past and Present

Part One

This is the second extract from the material of Jane Heap published in Margaret Anderson’s The Unknowable Gurdjieff. The chapter “Everything” begins on p.157. Anderson opens by saying that a change had started to take place in her and her friends of the Rope; although it had initially been imperceptible. “Gradually,” she writes, “we had begin to to ask ourselves what our former attitudes, standards, ideas and behaviour had to do with Gurdjieff’s transvaluations.” She drily notes that they seemed to have “very little” to do with them.

Anderson then states that, at this stage, their search was guided by Orage’s statement that objective thinking would be something new which began only once we had come to the end of subjective thinking. Apparently with reference to this, Jane Heap had suggested that they make kaleidoscopes of their lives, past and present. Anderson says no more of what was meant by this. I have read this passage several times over some forty years. Each time I did, I must have thought to myself I would come back to it, but only now have I done so.

In pondering it, I have come up with three elements, but there may be others, and I may be wrong: first, a kaleidoscope is, whatever else it may be, a mosaic It is made up of pieces of paper or glass in a tube with mirrors. In our case, the pieces of paper would be insights, snapshots, pictures, sensations and tastes of ourselves, stark memories of a feeling or a sense. I do not think that they would include analysis as such, because analysis of ourselves is beyond people who live in waking sleep. But our sense and feeling of ourselves in our attempts, our struggles and our failures to analyse could, perhaps, be among the papers and glass fragments.

Second, the papers and the glass are coloured: they are vivid. Even if they are dark, yet they have a colour. So only clear pictures of myself, with some life in them, can be included in my kaleidoscope. This shows, once more, why dry analysis has no place in it. Third, the pieces inside a kaleidoscope shift about: the major curiosity of it is the changing of formations, the sense of wonder at seeing something familiar become new in a twinkling. To understand myself, I need to be able to take pictures of myself, assemble them, and look at them in new configurations.

The danger of only ever seeing ourselves according to one self-serving pattern is easier to perceive in other people. One person whom I met a while ago, when taken to task for her relentless hostility, said to the woman who had spoken to her: “I might seem aggressive but in fact I’m just passionate.” But we could all see that she was as aggressive as a starved mastiff because something conditioned in her liked being domineering. When she was obliged to look at it, she related the aggression inside herself to a positive emotion. Had she been able to work with someone, she might have made a kaleidoscope in which she asked herself whether the behaviour could be related to other features in herself. She might soon have come to insecurity. It is a true story, and that gives it its universality.

Part Two

At pp.158-161, Anderson sets out an extract from Jane Heap’s letter discussing a “kaleidoscope” which Georgette Leblanc had offered. As shall be evident, the point of the letter comes from the nature of the kaleidoscope exercise which I have discussed.

“Very good, but in our present state, the combinations in the kaleidoscope are limited because every individual starts out as a different combination of chemicals from every other. Every individual has many sets of these combinations; the combinations under which he develops determine which set he shall bring forth. Because there is no conscious chemist in the laboratory, only a few chemicals ever come into action, and they come into action mechanically through the action of environment, and through the inter-action with other chemistries of other beings.”

“Once set in motion these chemicals make patterns which we call characteristics, and repeat and repeat. (Habit.) All of this remains in the biological realm, and in that realm the combinations may be very great, but not unlimited.”

“On the other hand, if there were a chemist in the laboratory the combinations could be infinite … all potentialities. The conscious chemist is, of course, the ‘Gurdjieff Method’.”

“In your kaleidoscope of today there is a long paragraph lamenting the loss of love which is a key paragraph to use in an effort to ‘conquer illusion’. You must show that you have learned that instinctive love – in its manifestations of attraction, repulsion, sacrifice, courage, crime, etc., its mechanical and chemical combinations that we call love, courtship, marriage, children, family, etc. – is only the human equivalent of that great laboratory in which Nature is the chemist. Your interpretation of those chemical manifestations was your love-image – and your illusion.”

“‘To be in a state of instinctive love is to be in a state of danger, and to be dangerous – to oneself or to the other or to both. Because we are polarised to a great force, it is only fortune that keeps us from damaging someone. Love without knowledge is demoniac’. And to lament, suffer, explain, justify – all of this is to show lack of knowledge, lack of strength.”

“In another paragraph there is something feverish, as if you had not yet been cured of the illness … not aloof, non-identified.”

It is my opinion that you should destroy the last vestige of that old love-image in your effort to understand it; that you should in the future – (having established the first therapeutic condition: wish to cure yourself) – resolve never again to cast one lingering look in the direction of the past, refuse to allow any associations to drag up any part of it; put the whole experience where it belongs: in another time, belonging to another person.

“Dismiss Maeterlinck from your mind and memory – consciously. You are allowing a mortgage to stand, against your own development. When you speak of resentment, calumny, hatred shown towards you … they are only the negative side of something you thought divine when it was manifesting positively. Do not stand back and register horror, surprise, or the inability to understand.”

“Try to show that your confusion of emotions or mind, was a lack of knowledge in respect of the two men. You had a great love with (Maurice) Maeterlinck and a great physical experience with the other. Neither you nor they had any power, direction, or control over it. They were as powerless in their lacks as in their love. It is insanity to speak of beings as if they were capable of acting consciously; and if one does act consciously, who is there to understand such action?”

“What centre was in love with Maeterlinck? – (rarely all three centres function in any love, and never at the same time). How much did you love the image of yourself that he created with his words? – love yourself in him? (‘The woman on a pedestal’). How long were you invulnerable? (‘All true loves are invulnerable to everybody but their beloved’). Infidelity is a sign that the physical centre has grown indifferent; the basis of instinctive love has a shift of its centre of gravity; or one was not, at the moment, mentally or perhaps emotionally in love with the beloved, thus taking one off one’s guard and making one’s organism unfaithful. Here is a grand field for investigating the illusion.”

“Investigate (in your present state of development) the reactions in you to love. Did you make an illusion of those reactions, or have you had the illusion that you made an illusion? Is it all an illusion that you loved Maeterlinck as you think you loved him? Did you love him at all? Did you love your ideal of love? Are you sure that it isn’t a super-Maeterlinckean fantasy … all this love, this suffering? has it any reality? Didn’t you start wrong? Weren’t the original elements (vaguenesses, pride of the mind, self-love, vanity, art, the theatre) the elements that were difficult to break with when the time arrived that love was over? You have said so, or have intimated it. Try to formulate it in terms of the Method.”

Joseph Azize, 1 January 2019

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