Dr H. then said that when he is alone and tries to remember himself, the sense of “I am” is not very strong, but when he is with others, the sensation is stronger. He asked: “Is it good for me to be before someone else when I concentrate myself and say “I am”?”
Gurdjieff No. You have attached yourself too much to this person, and interiorly you have become completely identified. When you are identified you do not even notice that your body is tense. You must feel yourself more normally.
Dr H. But I am not identified at that moment!
Gurdjieff That is what you think.
Dr H. That is what I wish.
Gurdjieff But only with your thought. Your feeling is identified with this person. (108)
Dr H. But then, why would the sensation be stronger?
Gurdjieff It is not stronger. For it to be strong, you have to have this sensation in your three centres. Necessarily, (only) that will give you a result.
The next question was from G.B. Much as he wanted to, this morning he found it difficult to work. He cannot overcome his torpor (torpeur), and has a feeling of disgust and nausea. He tries cold water. Gurdjieff confirmed that he tried cold water, and G.B. replied that he did, but the torpor returned. Gurdjieff asked whether he had become used to the cold water. G.B. said, no, but still he did not have any results.
The word “torpor” means “numbness, sluggishness.” It derives from the Latin verb torpēre meaning “to be numb, stiff, sluggish, inactive.”
Gurdjieff then asked whether he used cold water and followed it up with some exercise. No, said G.B., he did not do that. Gurdjieff asked him when he went to the “closet,” a word which appears to mean “a closed room,” and so could be either the toilet (as it clearly does later on this same page) or more broadly, when he gets ready for the day by washing and dressing. Since G.B. answers, “after breakfast,” I do not think it can just be the toilet. Gurdjieff then gives a fuller answer:
Do you know why I asked this question? The doctor will explain to you. You must free yourself of whatever spoils your efforts, and mobilise your entire organism to that end. This is a very simple reason. Change your customs, so that if cold water has not proved to be a solution then change it. If it is difficult to do your wardrobe (literally, go to the closet) before breakfast, then wash yourself. After eight or ten days the new habit will take hold, and you will be able to work in the morning. (109)
Gurdjieff then asked P.L. why she laughed, and whether she understood. She replied, yes, it is easy, before breakfast … (the three full stops may indicate that she said more but it has been omitted from the transcript.)
Gurdjieff then said that the work should be done before breakfast, he should change his custom, and then return to using cold water. He now understood the reason, he said, and the doctor would give him the details. G.B. replied that he was very tired when he woke up, to which Gurdjieff replied:
It makes no difference. (lit. It’s the same thing.) You have mobilised all your organism’s functions during the night. Therefore, interiorly, you cannot work since you have already taken all the forces you need for your work. You must free your functions. Among other things, if you do not find someone, I will explain to you what to do. It’s easy. It needs little time, five minutes. Come and see me.
G.B. thanked Gurdjieff. Gurdjieff then said:
I believe that our Aesculapius does not know what to do. The faculty doesn’t bother itself with these little things. It is not “bon ton” to speak of these things. Thus neither father nor mother ever explain them to their children. They do not know. It’s the same thing about masturbation. I have not yet met any children who do not engage in it. Their parents have not explained it, probably because it is not “bon ton.” It is the same thing with the closet. (110)
Aesculapius was a healing deity. The “faculty” must be the medical faculty at universities. Here the closet is doubtless the toilet.
But the most important aspect of this entire interaction is, it strikes me, that the pupil was referring to being unable to work at the contemplation-like exercises before breakfast. In other words, “work” is being identified – in this context at least – with the exercises, a very eloquent statement of how essential the exercises were in Gurdjieff’s last years.
There was then some unimportant conversation about this question, but Gurdjieff said that “bon ton” is a misfortune for everyone. (110-111) Mme E. then added that she can play a role with strangers, but not with her two sons. Gurdjieff replied:
Do a task, (this is) your task. Choose some specific matter, just one matter, and play a role in respect of that. Afterwards, take two, then three. Perhaps you will never do it for everything, (but then) you will remain a slave. Give yourself a task for one thing. When you worked at it ten or twenty times, then you can try with two things.
It is difficult, she said. “Perhaps, (but) you want too much.”
I could be wrong, but I think Gurdjieff meant that she wanted too much for the effort she was prepared to make. He then turned to someone who was a prosecutor and asked whether he understood. as what he had explained was extremely important; however, he would allow him time to formulate it well.
Robert Pomereu then said that he lost consciousness and sensation of himself if he was looking outwards. His eyes had to be turned towards himself to be able to work, he said. (111) Gurdjieff responded:
You are working too much. You must never give to the work more than a third of your day, (else) it becomes it an obsession. A thousand times I have repeated, never work for more than a third (of the day). You will advance further (by going little by little), but not in one hit. Otherwise, you will never go far. It’s the same thing for a pianist (learning) a melody. When he practises, he doesn’t play the melody. If he only plays the melody, always repeating, it is not an exercise. I am sorry that this should be an obsession. See the doctor. If his fee is too high (lit. “he is not cheap”), I will find you another. (111-112)
I think what is meant when Gurdjieff speaks about the pianist is: “A good pianist, when he practises, does not play melodies alone. If he omits his exercises, he does not develop evenly.”
G.B. then asked, whether this allocation of time for work was only for remembering, or also for rest. Gurdjieff replied that it was for everything, and not to think too much about it. At that time, he said, one should do everything as usual, whether reading or acting automatically. “It can only be built up little by little,” he said. “If you take excessive interest in the work at the beginning, you will never find it in truth.”
Pomereu then asked whether one should not think about it at all (in the rest period.) Gurdjieff reiterated: that is right, allow yourself one third of your time for the work, and for the other two thirds live automatically, as before. (112) That is the end of the transcript.