More on the Web Exercise (Paris Groups, 25 May 1944, Pt XXXIII)

Lanctin said that he was trying to work but he had two obstacles, his body and his head. He could overcome the body not his head so as to have attention.  The exchange is set out in the transcript, the essence of it is Gurdjieff’s advice: “If the body changes, the head will change. With a different body, one has a different head. You must do nothing special for your head. If you already feel something in your body, then continue. Your head will follow your body.”

Mme de Salzmann: The head must do nothing. It must be like a witness. It must habituate itself to remember to be there.

Gurdjieff: It will serve to help you, to remember. The role of your head is to be present. The service your head renders is being a constant witness. Little by little, it will stop wandering [lit. not go away], and with it you will be able to change. That was very good advice.

Kahn: I have the taste of this exercise, I sense the shocks, and I fill myself. But I lose the breath, I have nervous tensions that I do not succeed in conquering.

Gurdjieff: You have no tempo. It is necessary to do different things. First of all, divide the period of your respiration into three equal parts: first, inhale normally; second, retain the air while you relax; and third, exhale without tensing. It is not necessary to relax when you are taking (in) the air, only while you are holding it do you place a special attention on relaxing yourself. It is very important that you relax while you are retaining it.

Kahn: I am always tense when exhaling.

Gurdjieff: You have no tempo. Perhaps you have other disharmonies.

Kahn: You have told me to suck in water: I always have a blocked nostril, but it is not always the same one.

Gurdjieff: You should continue. If you have been sick all your life, it is not possible to be cured in just one week. You have already changed: before, it was always the same nostril which was blocked. Doctor, it is  striking (original) that this organic thing disappears: it goes to another place. Then there is no illness (maladie), although there is a problem (maladie). All doctors will tell you that there is an illness here. I say that this thing can disappear, and go elsewhere, here or there. If it is not an illness, what is it? It is something unique (originel), it is absurd, but the patient understands it.

Kahn: Even before (you spoke), I had the impression that if I could have been guided, I would have been able to make this tension (contraction) disappear.

Gurdjieff: Continue with it, and try this new special exercise: to being with, take your watch and divide your time exactly into three parts, of between five and ten seconds each, not more than ten seconds, and (do) not (try it) often. Two or three times in twenty four hours.

Kahn: Not in life?

Gurdjieff: During the exercise, that is better. You divide your attention in two.

[It seems to me that Gurdjieff is telling Kahn to work at this breathing exercise in the course of the daily Preparation, at what is basically the Collected State Exercise.]

Paquer: How can I recognise and be certain if I am identified with this work?

Gurdjieff: You must never work for more than one third of your working state. If you are thinking about it during the other two thirds, then you are identified. It is easy to remember.

Dr Aboulker: You told me that there are occasions to hate my parents. I can now do that. I now understand what you wanted me to say, that I must hate the idea I had of them, and treat myself as if I had always been an orphan.

Gurdjieff: Did you pity yourself at those moments?

Dr Aboulker: On the contrary, I received force.

Gurdjieff: What force?

Dr Aboulker: The force of only having myself to reply on.

(Gurdjieff speaks in Russian with Mme de Salzmann)

Gurdjieff: Have you understood my explanation? You felt that I was content, or discontented?

Dr Aboulker: Monsieur, since you spoke to me about it a long time ago, you must know what has to happen.

Gurdjieff: Remember to ask Mme de Salzmann about what I have just said to you.

Try now to do the exercise of forming a web. All the brotherhoods of the past did the same thing. You know the saying: “One for all, all for one.” In ordinary life this is a lie because it is not realisable. But where there is a brotherhood they all have one common aim. (If) one of them is animated to a certain degree, then he must wish that all may arrive at that, and conversely the others, too, are obliged to help. This example brings more closely (into focus) what must be done. It will help to achieve a contact. Even (if) egoistically, (still) one must wish it, because when one is in a very weak state one will be helped.

One can say that it is literally like a spider-web. If a force lights up one link in the net, it will soon extend to every link.

Mme Thezenas: Can the weakest (member) also be helped?

Gurdjieff: It is not a matter, one is animated. There exist two things: matter and force. This exercise is done to warm, to arouse, to animate, to give force.

(After dinner)

Blonde number 2, is there anything new about your health?

Vie: No, monsieur, nothing good.

Gurdjieff: Good or bad does not exist. Only change exists.

Vie: I have more headaches.

Gurdjieff: Sometimes we call “bad” something which is good. (If) you never had headaches before, then that is very good. Perhaps what I have given has aroused something (a produit un réveil). Your brain didn’t have any blood, the blood never circulated there, but now the blood is moving, and so you are unwell.

Vie: I am waiting.

Gurdjieff: That interests me to know. You do not have to wait. Sometimes the unhappiness of others makes me happy.

Mechin: I forgot to ask you something. In the exercise of filling-up, I have difficulties in filling my thighs.

Gurdjieff: What do you call it? Ah! The legs. We are going to speak of the legs. Change nothing of what I have explained. You have only to convince the pig even further, so that it becomes a goat. Perhaps now the pig is in a very good way. Perhaps all that remains is for the leg to transform. Put no special attention on that aspect of the leg, sooner or later it will be done. You have another quality now. Do not separate your thighs from your head. All that will be done.

Mme Thezenas: I succeed in doing the filling-up (exercise) with very strongly and sharply.

Gurdjieff: Perhaps it is the first time that you have put all your consciousness there. But first, what exercise were you doing?

Mme Thezenas: The filling up.

Gurdjieff: Were you there when I explained it?

Mme Thezenas: No, Mme de Salzmann explained it to me.

Gurdjieff: Ah! Mme de Salzmann. The whole process goes on without me. I am as if had fallen from the moon.

Mme Thezenas: I sense (during) the exercise very well, but I have the impression that it is a chore, (although) in the beginning it interested me because it was new.

Gurdjieff: Do you have an aim for which you do all these things in general?

Mme Thezenas: Yes, I have an aim.

Gurdjieff: I have always regarded you as a guest, but now I need to know a little more about you. What is your aim?

Mme Thezenas: To come to being myself.

Gurdjieff: You are not (yourself)? You suspect that you can come to being? Then … For you it is still too early to do this exercise. You can receive a great deal, but you do not have sufficient preparation to do (this exercise). You will do just one exercise, twice or three times a day. Relax yourself consciously. All your thought, like a policeman, to verify that none of your muscles are tense. (lit. “that everywhere your musculature is not contracted”). There are three grades of muscles: large, middle, and small. Spend a week learning how to relax each category of muscle. When you can be sure that you can truly relax yourself completely, then you will come back to me, and you will ask your question again.


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