Every Real Effort Is Will (16 October 1985, Pt I)

This is the first exchange from the meeting of Wednesday 16 October 1985. Johannes said: “I tried this week to create continuity between appointments. I wanted to look at my watch every five minutes. It didn’t happen this way, there would be ten minutes sometimes and sometimes it would be shorter even. But it did help very much, there was a possibility of somehow changing my state to straighten out and feel differently.”  

“How did you mark the five minutes?” asked Mr Adie:Just by looking at your watch?”

 “Yes. But often I didn’t.”  

“It’s obvious, there are limitations in that, isn’t it? To be sure of it you would have to had absolute continuity. Isn’t that right? To have certainty of that you would have to have continuity, wouldn’t you? Which means, it means you’d already achieved the ultimate, non-stop consciousness. I think it’s very important to try and understand what’s involved, otherwise one will misjudge one’s possibility, and that will make you draw a wrong conclusion about the effort altogether. I mean there are certain kinds of repetitive work where you can actually stop for a moment at certain times, but it has to be extremely controlled. And one doesn’t live like that, so, what is possible between artificially arranged circumstance and one’s life circumstance?”

“You see, you work on your own, very largely. So, you can do what you like, you have a clock up in front of you, and you can stop if you wanted to. I wonder what sort of conclusion you’ve drawn from it.”

“It seemed to be of help, by end of the day there was a feeling of gratitude for what happened during the day. But there was a feeling of hopefulness too. I tried to not to have my usual reaction which is of frustration at failure: “Oh well, I’ll never do it.” I tried to not to have that.”

“I think the work that you’re doing is very vital to you, you’re working in that way because it’s possible for you. Then, what is possible when you go out into the world? Everyday isn’t like that. What is possible then.”

“It’s different,” agreed Johannes, “if I have to associate with people it is difficult.”

“But you see, it can’t be that we can only achieve a certain level in our work when we’re by ourselves, or when we find we have been given a special moment when we are lifted up without any apparent effort on our part. It’s a tremendously vital question, isn’t it? This is a vital thing” what is really possible for us?”

“He said at one time, that if you could remember yourself for two and half minutes you would already be a archangel. Well, that meant, two and half minutes non-stop. You remember Mr Ouspensky’s  effort when he was walking round down around the Nevsky Prospect, and he was determined to remember himself? He went into the side streets where he found it not so difficult, then he went again into the busy streets, and he happened to pass the tobacconist. He went in to buy some cigarettes and two and half hours later he woke up in a taxi cab. That was his specific intention to remember himself as he passed down that road, and that’s what happened. And he was a man of great determination, and experience; mind you, that was in his early days with Mr Gurdjieff.”

“So what plan are we going to make that corresponds to our possibility, that’s not easy, that’s not too difficult, and that we’re prepared to pay for?”


There was a pause, then Mr Adie continued: “It is very, very necessary to make these efforts and not get defeated by failure. In a sense, one has to accept that this effort is bound to fail – but only from one point of view. The essence of it is to make the effort, and then the question arises at the end, was I making an effort or was I only thinking about it, and so on? Then there’s a chance of another moment there.”

“In this connection, sometimes we have had moments when we experience a certain powerful seriousness, which is not depression in the least. But a certain kind of reality of finding oneself in this position. Serious. It’s not dependant exactly on any particular arrangement, because I could be serious, obviously, in any situation.”

“Supposing I’m in a very bad situation physically, I’ve been captured, and put in some horrible place where I’m suffering: it wouldn’t stop my being serious, it might even assist it.”

“The opposite situation might even be harder: could I be serious facing something that I want very much? No, obviously I couldn’t, if it wants something very much, serious is out of the question. “I” have to be bigger than “it.” I have to be, otherwise work doesn’t go on. A moment of seriousness is when I am bigger, it proves it’s possible.”

“What do all the failures matter, what does any miserable compassion for my mistakes matter, if I can be serious now? I’m alive now, serious. This state is going to go, but it’s possible. How can I get there again? Obviously not by wasting time, malingering and blaming myself and all this rubbish. Again, I have to come to an effort, this mystery of making; this will, you see, every real effort is will.”

“The kind of efforts we make are very much mixed, and that’s why it doesn’t take place very often. As is said, we have self-will, we have wilfulness, and very little real will, just occasionally, and to a small degree. But in the kind of work that you were doing, can I manifest my will for five minutes? This is what you were trying. And then can I manifest it for the next five minutes? Then it goes on in the head so much and I’ve got to be free of that.”

Johannes cut in at once: “I have, there’s a great, great urge on my part to get on with the work and I think this is also the difficulty, and when you said I must be bigger than that, it meant a great deal to me.”

“Good,” said Mr Adie. “But hurry is impossible. Don’t let hurry enter in. If I hurry, it’s useless. But that doesn’t stop me working quickly. If I go to arrange it, I find that I can work quickly. That can produce some kind of continuity. See, if you try and employ moving centre which is the easiest one to observe, I can make this movement and I know the next movement I’m going to make. This is the thing.”

“If I’m doing a job with a certain continuity of effort, I cut this and put it down, I pick that up, I pick up that easy, there’s a succession of movement, as I do that, I know this follows. I could try and use this kind of thing.”

Mr Adie then turned and asked if someone else wished to speak. I will just note how important I find this thought he threw in there: “What do all the failures matter, what does any miserable compassion for my mistakes matter, if I can be serious now? I’m alive now, serious.” This is, of course, related to the mystery of repairing the past, of the legitimate role of time in removing detritus, and allowing the growing of something new: a healthy process which we too often sabotage by obsessive negative emotions.


Joseph Azize, 23 September 2019

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