Self-Initiation (4 October 1983, Pt I)

This is from the meeting of Tuesday 4 October 1983. Before going further, let me ask a question: if you were given a chance for self-initiation would you not leap at the chance? If you were given the opportunity to take a test, with the knowledge that to meet the test would be a form of self-initiation, would you not be willing to meet it? In the abstract we all will enthusiastically say “yes.” But if we are given a chance for self-initiation in real life, what will we do?

Consider this. People had been asked to submit, before the meeting, a short one-paragraph summary of how the line of work they had formulated as necessary for themselves. Not all had done so, and Mr Adie knew who they were, so when he had taken his position, he asked Mick: “You missed last meeting, didn’t you? Last Tuesday?”

“No. I was here.”

“But you haven’t brought a note of what you intend to be working on. Didn’t you know we had to?”

“Yes, I did. But I haven’t really decided.”

“Oh, but you have to put something down. The message was that you wouldn’t be able to come in if you didn’t bring it.”

“Mrs Adie said, from what I gather, that I would have longer time to decide.”

“No. It has to be brought. It’s alright. You can remain now. But did you miss a meeting – or was it the weekend work?

“I missed the weekend work.”

“Yes, but, you still have to bring it up tomorrow. And you haven’t brought yours, Mary.”

“I have got it with me tonight.”

“You have got it with you? Where is it?”

“It’s in the bag outside.”

“What’s the use of it in the bag outside?”

“Well, I can give it to you after the group.”

“That’s useless, after the group.”

“Do you want me to get it now?”

“No,” Mr Adie replied, “I want you to see how useless it is in your bag. What we’re doing now is the most difficult thing, the most difficult thing of all, to try and come to the moment of work. It defeats everybody, year after year. It’s inevitable. It’s very difficult, it has to be so, because there’s very little real I in us, very little real I, it’s all bits and pieces of personality, and this has no real intention from the point of view of inner work. It’s attached to things, it goes by slavery, it goes by impulse attracted from outside by habit and copying and so on.”

“We are trying to build up a living entity inside that has discrimination and intention and understanding. This is incredibly difficult because it’s so rarely there, and that’s really why one says, now this has to be brought then. Because you have to do something at least. See, it’s only twenty words on a sheet of paper, so it is wrong to think you need a fortnight over it, isn’t it?”    

This was addressed to Mick, who agreed it was.

“Certainly, it mightn’t be the last word, but it would be something. However, one always somehow evades it and puts it off, and if we understand it for a second, if we can respond to that demand, it starts a search: how can I say what I want? I can’t unless something like “I” is there, and this is an inner experience. And believe me you can go on for years and years in the work, and omit it, not having this inner experience, and it’s terrible when that happens: one goes through the motion and doesn’t work, we wish to become free beings, free, free to make decisions, free to choose.”

This is important for several reasons: first, it is a taste of the demand that a real teacher can make on you. Being present, we had the possibility of sharing in the experience almost as much as Mick and Mary: but for that we needed to be relatively present, open to the impressions, and not allowing something in ourselves to feel superior to the people who had defaulted. This means being available to feeling, even if the feeling impression is uncomfortable, and it is bound to be uncomfortable, because we knew that, in terms of being, we were on the same level as Mick and Mary. Being able to participate without saying a word is surely an example of how, in a real group, the work of one is the work of all.

It would have been so easy for Mr Adie to just accept Mick and Mary with barely a word. It was surely harder for him to confront them: but he was ready to do so. It would be a problem of another sort if he looked for such confrontation. But he did not.

I think that Mr Adie put his finger on something quite critical when he said that, in an exercise like this, even if we cannot formulate something satisfactory, yet the effort has a value because it commences a process of searching in us. So often, after Mr Adie had died, and we had tried to employ such exercises, people would say: “I can’t formulate anything, but I have a feeling, and that is enough for me.” However, I should not allow myself a way out like that. If I wish to “move from this dead spot,” as Ouspensky said, I have to submit to the demand and to do what had been impossible for me. From this perspective, the demand which Mr Adie brought was an invitation to self-initiation.

This explains my opening: Mary and Mick, at least, let slip this chance for self-initiation. That is what made the episode so poignant.

Joseph Azize, 13 October 2019

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