A Striking, rather Poignant Thought

I was listening today to a recording of one of the meetings from Newport. Once more, at the start of the tape, one could hear the sound of Mr Adie’s laboured breathing. He had less than one complete lung. I realised then, as a fact, what previously I had chiefly concluded only with my intellect: that he used the state of his lungs and his breathing as a reminding factor. It is not that I had never experienced any feeling when I had contemplated this, but more that the feeling was secondary, and not so strong as to make me apply his example in my own life.

To an extent, this is simply a function of my general obtuseness. But it is also, I think a function of my increasing valuation of the inner work, and of the efforts the Adies made to pass their understanding on to us. Then, returning to the dullness which befogs my brain: that very cloudiness is in inverse relation to my inner work. That is, the more I work, the clearer my mind and the better my understanding. Further, I never had a permanent issue with my health, other than my sleep apnoea which, unlike difficulty in breathing does not continuously demand one’s attention. Now I am in need of a double knee replacement, but am hoping to delay the operation for as long as possible, and preferably never to have it. Even then, to make the connection between the knee pain and self-remembering is not so easy. I sense that it would require bringing myself into a very well collected state, and after some period of time, coming to a resolution.

Another way of putting this is to say that we often receive an impression, but it does not develop very far, if at all. It is registered, so to speak, but it is not integrated into our functioning memory. This is another way of looking at the phenomenon of how we often forget what we have just done, where we have just put something, or we have just seen an item but not appreciated that it was there and so we go off and look for it.

It is also true that Mr Adie’s condition was so serious it practically demanded his attention. Often, our issues, even our chronic sufferings, are not so bad that they leave us no peace. I may be quite okay while I am sitting down, but when I stand up I feel the pain. It is at that moment that my making the association between my state and my pain will be of most practical value to me.

I think this is another aspect of Gurdjieff’s reminding factor as described in the Third Series, and part of the reason we all fail to implement this good idea: even a vow not to use hypnotism will only remind me (or is most likely to remind me), when I am tempted to use that skill. That is, it would be easy to think that the factor is never ceasing in that it is always reminding me, but that may be too much to expect. A watch dog isn’t always barking, but someone comes along it, it will awaken. Perhaps the same applies to us, and in the case of Mr Adie, he was fortunate that his unfortunate condition left him little peace as long as he was awake.

But now, let us apply this to ourselves. What is the effort to be made? It must, I think, have an intellectual component. I begin with a clear idea (the clearer the better), that I will use this pain in the knees as a reminding factor – when I feel it, I will remember myself. Some questions arise: what does it mean, in this context, “remember myself”? It cannot expect it to be like when I am in the preparation. But maybe I should – maybe I should indeed aim for something like that – that is, for a connection with that state.

What then, typifies that state? Perhaps it is the intensity of the experience of being collected: the ineffable unity and calmness in mind, feeling, and body. Why should I not aim at that? And if my aim is as high as that, I see at once that it will need some fairly serious work: I would have to make efforts along those lines at least once a day, probably more.

Then, if it is to be in that direction, I must be fully aware that I need some feeling of myself, perhaps even to try and sense the feeling in the knees. That feeling must be connected with my being-wish. How could it not? It must also be connected with a higher quality thought, the sort of thought which is more serene and less fussy than the associations of formatory apparatus. And why stop there?

I think that if we could all use our aches and pains as reminding factors, the way Mr Adie did with his lungs (or at least that way, even if on a smaller scale) we would advance more definitely and surely along the way. But in remembering him, I recall his efforts, and how he was even able to express gratitude for his condition, although it had turned him from an athletic man into an elderly invalid overnight. He was grateful precisely because it was the material he used in his efforts.

Those efforts exemplified many times, this principle he mentioned in the meeting of Wednesday 24 June 1987:

It’s very significant that in talking about past events, old men, old women, when they talk about their lives, the events they recall may have been events of great suffering, but they recall it with joy. The incident may have been a very frightening one, but they recall it with happiness simply because they were there. This is what they remember. They remember being there. It happened. And so, they go back over these past events with their very dubious connections and they get this joy because they were there. So, they can go back. There was that quick life of consciousness.

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