Two Memories of George Adie

Two recollections of things said by Mr Adie have recently returned to me. The first is simply that in the year before he died, he said that when working at the morning preparation, it was good to vary the order of the sensing. Sometimes, he suggested, commence with the feet, sometimes, with the hands, or with the arms. I don’t recall any other starting point being mentioned. Perhaps these are ideal because of the precise sensation possible with those members. Only a more diffuse sensation is possible of the belly, for instance, although it can be quite forcible in parts. Try it, and see.

The other memory has, I think, been transcribed and posted somewhere. But its importance has only now struck me. I was in a group meeting, when he mentioned how he once received a call from the school: one of his sons had been sexually assaulted as he was walking through a park near the school. Mr Adie went down, and remained for a few days, making a point of accompanying his son at the scene of the crime, when the police later came down to conduct their forensic investigations. “I wanted,” he said, “that when he remembered this foul offence, the memory of myself would also be there. And I think it was successful; he does not seem to have shown much evidence of any serious suffering from it.”

I am sure Mr Adie gave no further details of what the assault had comprised. That may make a difference to the memories his son would have had. But I don’t think it affects the principle, and it is the principle I now understand better. I think the principle is this: we can affect the power our associations of the past have over us by adding associations to those associations. I will then go a little further in a slightly different direction, but let us focus on this first.

Mr Adie’s attending the park with the police and his son was done so that when his son had any association which recalled the assault, an association with his father would also be present. I only realised for myself this technical, one might say “engineering” aspect of it, because of something I myself recently experienced.

Someone for whom I have enormous respect, second only to that for Mr Adie, said to me that I dwelt upon person X too much, but that I did not dwell and not upon person Y. At some point after that, when I had a particularly sharp involuntary recollection of person X, I mused on what had been said to me: why did I always remember X, but not Y? It happened a great deal: I had many unwanted recollections of person X. But why?

As soon as I had that question, my attitude shifted somewhat, becoming milder, less critical both of X and of myself. I then took that as a technique: when I recalled person X, I would recall person Y, too. And that did make quite a difference. It took a few days for this to become a habit, but it did so, and it marked a significant change in my suffering.

Later, and I mean only a day or two later, without any intention on my part, when I recalled person X and person Y, I also recalled Mr Adie. Again, this was even better. With the memory of him, I was much more able to be present to the memories. I was able to see them for what they were: mere associations, not without a significance (for X and Y had been pivotal figures in my life), but yet assuming an improper degree of prominence in my present life. (Incidentally, when I tried to include Gurdjieff it did not work at all the same: having known Mr Adie made all the difference.)

It was only a day or two after that when I saw that this has a meaning: more than I ever had realised, something in me had identified with these associations. Something had “given I” to associations which were thrown up by the formatory apparatus. We not only identify with our false image of ourselves (or at least with aspects of it), we also identify with our associations, and the psychic imaginings prompted by them.

So deeply does something in us identify with associations and the sequences they provoke that we take them as being thought. They are not thinking, they are associating and reacting. They are purely mechanical. It is almost as if something in us takes them with a seriousness they do not deserve because we are so accustomed to them. These associations are so abundant, so present and so prominent in our heads, that it is as if we are obliged to believe in them. Partly, it is as if without them there would be no thought in our heads. But that is true. We do indeed never think. Partly, it is as if the quantity of these associations compensates for their lack of quality. But we know this can never be so, once we ponder it.

And if we do ponder it, then we have in fact begun thinking. This may be a rule: that the initiation of real thought lies in separating from, ceasing to identify with, formatory thought – and that is why purely associative mentation and its sequelae are – formatory thought.

I have recently had a great deal to do with some people who have been in what are pleased to style themselves as “Gurdjieff groups” for many years. It is stunning how many of them have not heard of “formatory thought.” I write that not to criticise, but to exhort – return to In Search of the Miraculous. Read. Gurdjieff had Ouspensky write for a reason, a very good reason.

Joseph Azize, 29 January 2020


  1. I am interested in what you say about associations toward the end Joseph. Personally I can acknowledge now, after much exploration of sorts, that I am indeed plagued by the world of my associations, which is particularly evident in nocturnal dreams when it could be described as a kind of hell. The situation appears to become ‘worse’ with time, but it is probably the case that I notice them more now, and suffer more because of it. Associations connected with my instant aversion to and judgement of others are particularly humbling. The fact that I notice them and acknowledge their existence is probably connected with a corresponding degree of self observation and ‘separation’ from them. More recently it occurred to me, more through seeing than conjecture, that while it is simpler (though not easy) to observe and ‘separate from’ my physical body, breath, postures and even behaviour, I am almost always ‘stuck’ to my associations – what I take as my thinking, and take them for ‘I’. This is rarely questioned in the same way, although I know theoretically that it is the case. Recently, awaking partially from a dream, and seeing my situation, subject to this state, there was the usual searching ‘to save myself’, usually through attending to the weight of my body and each breath. At the same time something more intelligent in me recognised the turmoil of these associations as simply ‘a process’ going on in me, just like my breathing or blood circulation. This gave a certain objectivity to them, and less identification with them. I need to witness them, get to know that state (‘everything is material’) as uncomfortable as it is, and also, as I recall Lord Pentland once saying, I need to get to know the ‘seeing’ end of the experience, the sense that it is not ‘I’. The question then arises as to how to think, how to find direction. There can be a real sense of need and wish arising from this experience, and it can become apparent why one would come to “Lord have mercy” and “Thy will be done”. One can also see in relation to this, the way that everyday practical tasks can be such a help. Following a simple practical task, such as sweeping leaves, can ground me within the body and give a focus to my attention and thought. From my years in Gurdjieff groups this is probably the one thing that remains most useful. Simple and yet never ending in terms of possibility, and such task are always in front of one in daily life as an invitation.

  2. I recall that Mrs Adie would very often start the morning preparation with the face. Mr Adie did not do this in the years I was there. Perhaps Mr G made this suggestion to her specifically.

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