Yet more on Playing a Role (13 February 1944, Paris Groups, Pt XXI)

Henri Tracol then asked a complex question about being interrupted before the end of the exercise, and feeling a need to go back to the start, and begin breathing again. Gurdjieff replied: “I do not believe it is necessary. Let it be as it happens. Little by little, it will change. If you try and do it intentionally, it may give you a fixed idea. It is possible to habituated yourself to this little thing, and that can become an obsession which spoils the true exercise. You should do the exercise as it has been given.” (Faites donc l’exercise comme il doit être fait, literally: so do the exercise as it should be done.)

V.D. then asked a very interesting question:

I am working on the task you gave to be freed from connections (with others). I have begun by taking someone for whom I have sympathy and respect. Before seeing her, I try to represent to myself that I have an antipathy to her, and when I see her, to maintain that antipathy. It is difficult. As soon I begin speaking with her, my sympathy returns. I have had to struggle, to be present with all my centres, and then to work with the antipathy. That has allowed me to feel, in life, my antipathies and sympathies more quickly; and that has remained with me. Should I continue? It is very difficult to feel antipathy. Do I continue?

Gurdjieff replied: “You should keep trying. It will give you a taste of engaging with (acquiring) the practice. Without the taste, one can do nothing. You need the taste, (because) that can become a power.” Gurdjieff then left the room, and returned and said:

Those who have already done this exercise, having succeeded in doing it, and can maintain something during the day in the course of their activities, those can from time to time, for five or ten minutes, each time they remember, breathe from the abdomen, and represent to themselves that their breathing nourishes not their organism but their “I.” (101)

Tracol asked: “Directly?” Gurdjieff answered:

Yes, among other things, you can represent to yourself: “I wish that all the active elements in the air enter my “I.” I wish that all the corresponding active elements in the air, separate out to merge with my “I.” And each time, after you have done that, pronounce interiorly, “I AM. I wish that all which I have taken be retained in me.” And when you say “I AM,” feel yourself entirely.

S.R. asked whether one particular sensed the abdomen when breathing, and Gurdjieff said yes, one breathes from the stomach. Tracol asked whether it was “below the navel?” Gurdjieff replied: “From beneath the diaphragm.”

S.R. now asked Gurdjieff to confirm his understanding that, while breathing, one has the thought of retaining the active elements, and affirms “I AM” afterwards. Yes, said Mme de Salzmann, afterwards. Gurdjieff then added a critically important note:

I now repeat that it is necessary to pay special attention to the exercise which each group has received, and to use the exercise as often as possible. This is the “I AM” exercise. Without this exercise, one will never arrive at real “I AM.”

Responding to a query by Mme de Salzmann, Gurdjieff said that the Sunday exercise was in addition to this one. (102)

A.D. then said that he had been regularly going to the baths, and that this had been a useful avenue for his work: when he works, his sensing becomes stronger, he sees and hears better. Yet, it bothers him, because the sensations are so strong and he is no longer master.

“It attracts you towards something exterior,” said Gurdjieff. A.D. agreed, saying that he seemed unable to concentrate himself, to come in from the exterior. “Then associations have become stronger,” said Gurdjieff. Once more, A.D. agreed: a sound or a person passing by had become more significant (making more of an impression than before.) Gurdjieff replied that it was normal, as he had not been used to going to the baths, but now that he was used to it, it made a big change. A.D. replied that he had been going for two years now. Gurdjieff said:

Yes, but today you find that you are habituated to it. You are receiving more nourishment, and that has created a disharmony. Continue, it (harmony) will come little by little. If it does not, I shall take employ special measures. But that is not necessary, today, nothing has been disordered. It (achieving harmony) is rather more difficult, but it is possible, isn’t it?

A.D. agreed that it was possible, and Gospel added:

Then on that day when you can do no more for yourself, we will take steps, but it may well arrange and harmonise itself without any need to take special measures. (103)

There is an important constatation yet to be made about the baths. I recommend it to everyone. Nothing is more necessary than to go once a week or a fortnight to the hammam. It is sovereign for everything: for hygiene, sensation, nourishment, everything.

But now, speak quickly, lest I fall asleep. When I was lying down I could not sleep (lit. sleep was with the devil), but now I am up and I am dozing. Perhaps this anomaly (contradiction) comes from my grandmother’s principles. When I lie down I am active, it’s as if I could dance. But as soon as I get up, I start dozing. Ah, it is my grandmother’s fault. May the devils carry her away.

They had lunch, and Gurdjieff joked. Then D.S. asked: “How can I remain myself and see myself when I am in the presence of people to whom I am attracted? For example, I fear to hurt them, but then I become a slave to my impulses.” Gurdjieff said that he had explained it a thousand times, and asked Mme de Salzmann to repeat his advice. She said: “Interiorly not to be identified, exteriorly to play a role.” Gurdjieff then said:

Your work is to try that. You cannot do it? Try. Continue. To exercise yourself interiorly you must try. It is your work.

“But with these people -” D.S. added.

“I do not know the details,” said Gurdjieff. “That depends. All the world has this difficulty. Place the accent on not being identified. That is (not being identified with) your role. You must not think of anything else.

That was the close of that meeting.

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