Being and Doing 29 October

Part One

Mr Adie had a major memorial of the 29th of October, the anniversary of Gurdjieff’s death, each year. It was good and right. Without some such memorial, I feel a so-called “Gurdjieff group” loses a possible strong connection to him and his system.

In pondering on Gurdjieff and his achievement, it struck me that he allowed In Search of the Miraculous to be published just as it was, even with the criticisms of him.He could have stopped it. Mme Ouspensky had said she would not publish it without his advice. Had he recommended any changes, she would have accepted: such was her deference to him as being someone so high above her she could not really see him. But he told her to publish, and requested no omissions. That was humble and honourable.

Part Two

We received so much from Mr Adie, and so the parable of the talents applies to us. This is one piece of wisdom which we had from him in very many formulations, on very many occasions: the use of conscious imagination. But first, some personal context.

A while ago, I posted this:

I have never so sincerely and thoroughly felt myself as I was writing a post. It was necessary for me to write it, to formulate, to give it a crystallisation, so that it could be digested, pondered, brought before me again in a collected state, and understood more and more deeply. That is how he taught us to work with this exercise: the re-presentation of images to my feeling.

First, let us distinguish “imagination” and “representation”. Imagination is a faculty of the mind. Imagination can be with or without consciousness, with or without presence. We can take “representation”, “presenting again,” as the same as conscious imagination. But there may be a better phrase than “conscious imagination;” perhaps it might be “conscience imagination”. Imagination, meaning automatic imagination, takes place in the formatory apparatus, with the help of emotion: it is a series of associations in connection with the emotions. When the emotions are pleasant, so too are the imaginings. When the emotions are unpleasant, again, so too are the imaginings. It is odd, but nonetheless true, that there is something in us which can enjoy unpleasant imagination. I think this follows from at least two things, first, the way we are built to become accustomed to impressions, and eventually to enjoy them, and secondly, unpleasant imaginings can be associated with egotism. An example of the second process would be how self-pity satisfies something self-regarding in us. Imagination charged with negative emotion  feeds our self-pity, and so satisfies this egotism.

But “re-presentation” is something different, at least as I am using it. I am speaking of presenting something to a higher part of the mind, and then consciously (or with conscience) re-presenting it to the feeling. As Gurdjieff said, “Descend consciencely” (quoted by A.G.E. Blake). This is what is happening, I think, in what I call the re-presentation exercise.

And this, at last, is that exercise. I take a situation which has been very difficult for me, e.g. a certain coldness or even a hostility between myself and X. Preferably after the preparation, but certainly while as collected as possible, I contemplate that situation with the feeling and intellectual parts of the mind, that is, I do not allow it to be the subject of formatory thoughts. I do not allow mere associations to take part in my thought: they are seen but ignored; I renew my effort to rise into the higher parts of the mind. When a thought of the requisite quality has been found, I must attempt to formulate it: this is the proper use of formatory mind.

That formulation can then be re-presented to my feeling. This introduces a higher thought to the feeling.

For example, take the example of hostility between myself and X. By reason, I have seen what was lacking from my relationship, I have seen my weakness. This is formulated into a picture of how I could have been different, how the relationship could have been different. For example, it may be a picture of a happy meeting, where we regard each other without fear, without trepidation, where we exchange and speak in an entirely different way, with positive feeling, without reserve or suspicion.

If such a picture can be re-presented to the feeling, what may it accomplish? It is something to be discovered. I doubt that this re-presenting can be done for more than a part of a second. But that is not necessarily an issue. It may be all that is possible, and yet it is possible. Perhaps with time the process goes deeper and deeper, becomes stronger and stronger.

Clearly these words are mine, not Mr Adie’s. But the pupil must make his teacher’s teaching his own.

Part Three: From the Meeting of Saturday 20 July 1985

“At the stop just before the walk, I found myself with a familiar feeling of having no choice at all. A sort of an emptiness, no choice, and not knowing what to do at all. Still, the degree of presence to some extent because the stop is printed in my memory. While all the other stops were, a sort of, trying to achieve some inner quiet.Some re-collection of state. This particular stop was much more of a conflict in a way, but, something of no opposing faction, particularly, I did nothing.”

Mr Adie responded: I see something, I experience something. I experience the conflict, the reality of some opposition which I don’t yet know, if you like. But I am there – in conflict. It’s not easy, I’m in question, I’m bewildered but I’m still remembering something. So.”

After that I started to go on the walk, still with that a type of laziness, an uneasiness, an empty feeling, trying to do something.

And trying to make some effort without knowing what to do, it sounds quite ridiculous,” added Abraham.

Un-easy, yes. You’d forgotten about being. It’s very difficult, you see, the idea of being; we don’t connect it with doing. There is no such thing as being without doing. So, again, some action is required, and that action is doing, any doing we can make, but it’s such an uncertainty.”

“Mr Gurdjieff said, “do and be”. The way we understand doing is not right. We can’t change the way we think, we can’t change anything like that, so how can we do anything? Everything is done, it’s predetermined because of our nature, because of our history. There is an action, there is an action of an effort to be, to understand being, that is where doing begins, and everything goes differently.”

“Nothing can go the same if I am present to what is taking place.”

“So, I always think, what do I have to do? When I think what I have to be, or about being, I don’t realise that being requires an action. I think it’s something else. I think of being passively, instead of being in life. Being is active.” 

“Now, that touches on your question.You have to learn to connect the principles of the laws. In your life, connect the principles of the laws. I cannot be without action. Impossible. I can have the being of a toad if you like, but the being of a man requires action. The action of being, intentional.”

“So, to do, to be. And if I am, then maybe I can begin do the smallest thing outside, but very little.”

“And there, being unable to calculate any of these forces, it’s all conditional.”

“But the inner doing is not conditional, in the sense that no effort to do innerly is ever wasted. I may not be able to appreciate the result, I may have to make many efforts, but sooner or later they’ll give a result.”

“You see, at the present moment, having made some kind of effort, I’m a little bit more understanding of what is required. Then, five minutes passes, or tomorrow comes, the day after, then there’s a chance that comes again, I would have a little bit more of an idea about the requirements of being. It is necessary; doing is necessary as well as being.”

“And, it’s not this passive sleep that I thought of being as this sort of serene dumpling, with nothing required of it. Just wonderful, like a plastic carved Budda. No, it’s supremely active state. The forces are balanced. You see a juggler, he’s doing; keeps everything going round, a good juggler, marvellous, and a perfect juggler hardly moves in doing, everything balanced.”

Joseph Azize, 27 October 2019 

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