Thursday 10 August 1944
previously published, Transcripts of Gurdjieff’s Wartime Meetings, 158-169
(Mr Gurdjieff has not yet arrived in the room. Mme de Salzmann asks for reports on “The Mlle L. Exercise.”)
Rene Zuber This exercise has shown me one side of myself in an extraordinary way. I have never, as when doing this exercise, encountered in myself my mechanism, my automatism, my animal. The first times, it gave me more, then I found difficulties. At the start, this exercise clarified in me things which I had not met later on, as if obstacles had accumulated after the first time.
Mme de Salzmann You no longer desire to do it?
Zuber At the beginning, it gave me something like an intellectual shock. Perhaps it was only intellectual. But I have not really succeeded whether exercise.
Mme de Salzmann Are you continuing?
Zuber Not seriously. I have not succeeded in taking my meals alone, and it is impossible to think of doing it in society.
Dr Aboulker In doing it, I have sensed the point of application which constitutes the nourishment, consolation, and satisfaction which it gives the lower nature. One consoles oneself for many things when one eats. I have also noticed the avidity with which I eat. Also, this exercise has made me a participant in my nature. Who created this nature? Who created what I eat? I feel myself related to everything. It gives me interior impressions, it (is) also a rest, a comfort, a feeling of union. It did me good to feel that one can be eating and receive impressions as real as one receives when one takes them with one’s mind.
Mme de Salzmann It gave you that?
Dr Aboulker A great deal.
Mme de Salzmann And always in a positive way? Nothing (in you) has refused?
Dr Aboulker There was such a difference between the usual (situation) and that. It was so considerable that – I am not saying that I will never be able to be otherwise – but in the end I will try not to always be like that.
Mme de Salzmann And you, L.?
L.L. It has been rather difficult. It gives me a feeling of calm. If I can concentrate myself afterwards, it gave me more presence.
Mme de Salzmann And the refusal you feel?
L.L. It has gone. But it’s been very difficult.
Mme de Salzmann You are drawing more benefit?
L.L. I sense the food passing like the air. It gives me a sensation of myself such as I have never had.
Mme de Salzmann You also, Aboulker?
Dr Aboulker I cannot say that. Ah, I forgot! It has destroyed my fondness for good food. One learns to take something other than pleasure from food.
Mme de Salzmann At the same time it strengthens it.
Mme S. I have indeed noticed that it gives more value to what one eats. I have understood that I eat too quickly. That has given me more calm. It is appreciated more. I (notice) the details of the quality. Only, sensation is more difficult to obtain in the oesophagus. In the mouth I can, but not in the oesophagus.
(Mr Gurdjieff has just arrived and Mme de Salzmann translates the questions for him.)
Gurdjieff If I can speak by analogy, I would say that the idea has come to your head that previously you were no different from “Mr Dog or Cat.” And now you constate that you are a little bit different.
Mme de Salzmann A very great difference!
Gurdjieff. A (single) difference. You are a human being, not a dog. A man knows how to eat. How? Consciously. He knows how to digest, to assimilate, not like a dog. Only after that can a man cease to be called “made of shit.” Until then, everyone is “made of shit.”
As for you, Doctor, what you say – that you now sense an impression – is exactly what I mean when I say that we have a third food. That is it. You have the taste of what the third food is. There is a food which enters through the mouth, that which enters through the nose, and that which enters through there (Mr Gurdjieff points to the head). These are impressions: the third food. Without them, man is a dog, an automaton. He is truly a dog.
Each day, it is necessary for you to receive the food of impressions. Then you can say with serenity that you are not a dog, but that you are in the image of God.
(to Gilles B.)
Gurdjieff Are you continuing with it?
Gilles B. At the beginning, it was going very well, but now, it goes pretty badly. The first time, as with the doctor, I was very satisfied.
Gurdjieff Are you continuing with it?
Gilles B. Then I stopped taking my meals alone. It is very difficult to do it in public. My head revolted.
Gurdjieff Whenever something goes well, there soon appears in man, opposing factors. It is necessary to struggle. The good force is the angel. The revolt is the devil. It is an automatic process of struggle. You have to enter into the automatic process and help either the angel or the devil. You have the taste of your good angel, and so you help this angel, otherwise you will be selling yourself to the devil.
Gilles B. What has worried me this week is only that I have taken categorical decisions about three things: the nourishing exercise, the other exercises, and …
Gurdjieff That is cheap, all these decisions! Always man “decides.” But his word is worth five cents. Do what I say, progressively. I know only that you do not exist. Little by little this must be accomplished. I know your weaknesses. One day, you word will be a true one. Today, you cannot keep your word. Categorical decisions? You cannot decide categorically. If you had done this exercise well at the beginning, you should continue, and today, you will be able to be otherwise. But your decision, anyone can make them.
Gilles B. What I do not understand is that I have no longer been the same.
Gurdjieff It is necessary to continue, if you stop the process, you destroy all the results (so far) attained. Do all again. It is possible that (230) it will become ten times more difficult. You have stopped. You need to arrive at the state you had at the beginning of the exercise. Without that state, you can do nothing.
M.D. Can one do this exercise?
Gurdjieff You are on the list? No? Then it is not useful. It is not for everyone. As for the rest, this list will be augmented with three people. I have found three candidates for this exercise. But three only.
(Mr Gurdjieff designates A.D., P.L., and R.P., who will have to come up to speed with the exercise straight after those which they have done.)