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Gurdjieff on “Pleasure”
The material in this article comes from two consecutive meetings of Mr Adie’s Thursday night group at Newport, on 7 and 14 November 1985. For those who have never heard of him, George Adie was a pupil of Ouspensky from about 1934, and of Gurdjieff in 1948 and 1949. A second edition of his book, “George Adie: A Gurdjieff Pupil in Australia”, is in an advanced state of preparation.
I thought there might be an interest in following two questions, one brought on each of the two evenings by the same man, a medical specialist. There is a continuity between the questions and Mr Adie’s answers. Apart from their intrinsic interest to anyone following a spiritual path, seeing the change over seven days might inspire confidence in those in Gurdjieff groups.
7 November 1985
This question was brought by Patrick: “Everything is in chaos again, Mr Adie. I have no control. I lead a pathetic and unhappy existence, feeling totally confused. There’s another doctor who is president of the college Over the last five months I’ve been working in a unit where he is one of the doctors. I spend the whole of Tuesday assisting him with his private work. But there’s no learning in it. Other doctors allow you to do operations. It’s not done to expect staff to assist with work they should be doing themselves. I have been working on just accepting that, and not complaining. I mentioned it to one of the other specialists, who said you shouldn’t be putting up with that. I don't know if I should be confronting him, or what. I am not using it well enough as work.”
“This is an ordinary life problem,” replied Adie, “not a work problem, and I wouldn’t dare to say one thing or the other. But how to use it for your work is something quite other. If you are to use it for your work, you have to be apart from it. You can’t be muddled up and use it at the same time.”
“Well, that’s what I’ve been trying to do.”
“But you haven’t, Patrick, you’ve been mixing it up. And I think you might try now to unmix it. Don't start by trying to solve it by the Work. The Work is only for your being-state. You want to be able to experience your being-state when you're with him. Be concerned with that, and the other will proceed. It will be sorted out in one way or another. If I am present, the answer will appear, or an answer will appear, but you have to try and sort that out yourself.”
“Still, if you succeeded in using the situation for your inner work, things would go better if only because you would be more collected, alert and even resourceful.”
“But that isn’t the reason for becoming aware of my being-reality. The reason for doing so is because you see your chaos, you see your slavery, you see this misery. Just because this man is as he is, why should that ruin your whole life? Alright, you don't gain as much experience as you otherwise would, but that’s not the end of the world. This period of service will conclude in another six months, and then it’s finished. And one might as well finish in a friendly manner as in an unfriendly one. Maybe it will pay off later: who can say? But that’s not your inner work: your work is your ability to stand upright in any circumstance. So, here’s a sort of tough proposition. Try and understand it. Try and have something for yourself. There’s nothing for your being in this saga about the daily work. But, as you are, your state is not the state of a free man. Separate the different things out, and then everything will change. Do your preparation for yourself, and keep the job separate from that.”
“Obviously, if you're going to be negative then everything will go wrong. That’s the first thing. Damn it all, this chap’s a so and so and so. Well, let him be as he is, but I am not going to be miserable because of what he is.”
“That is the difficult part,” urged Patrick: “how to work? Does one work to not be miserable?”
“Your aim becomes critical here. If your aim includes being balanced, more understanding of human nature, and not getting knocked over by the accidents of life, work with it in that way. Then you won’t get so confused, because one gets things muddled up. Your inner work is your preparation, your plan to sense and move towards your inner aim whatever the vicissitudes of life, your freedom in the circumstances, whatever they are. Try this week, and bring it again next week.”
“Life is compulsory, yes, but it also provides some choice. Both. We can’t say we’ll have one but not the other. You can’t find freedom in the circle of mechanicality. You can cooperate with higher forces and be lifted above it, and then you have freedom to appear anywhere in the circle you like, with whatever conscious attitude you need. We’ve got to live in the original life, but a little bit less compulsory because we’re more there. And then we have both lives: this life and the other. No good being a person who can only smile when they’ve backed the winner: I must be able to smile even if my pick runs backwards. See. Bring it again next week.”
That evening, Mr Adie did not directly answer Patrick’s question about working not to be miserable, but it was answered the next week, when Patrick had put Mr Adie’s advice into practice.
14 November 1985
Patrick: “Mr Adie, you asked me to report back after what I’d brought last week. I was able to make a slight change in the way I saw this particular man. I made only a small change, but that particular day, for some reason, he gave me a lot to do, more complicated. It was something I’d been wanting in a tight and tense sort of way, and then, when I didn’t want it the same way, it was given to me. Instead of wallowing in it, I made an appointment for every half hour, and the week has been a lot better.”
“Consequently you even look different,” said Adie. “Your expression’s different. When I’m tense, I move differently, I knock things over. I upset people, and there’s no life.”
“The funny thing,” said Patrick, “is that while I am happier at work, when I went to a party, people told me that I wasn’t as much fun as I used to be.”
“Then you need to play your role. Decide, will you meet these people or not? If you do, and you go to the party, then play your role. You need to decide beforehand. I need to play the role of a conscious man, and he doesn’t go making enemies all around by changing his behaviour. Maybe I need to shake off a few people: that’s okay. Sometimes I have to say I’d like to come, but I have too much to do. Be adept in finding a reason: you’ve got too much to do, so you’re out.”
“But my aim is to be there. My aim is to know what’s happening. Your difficulty was this very negative attitude, with suffering and loss of energy with your life conditions. Now the conditions have switched a bit. Use them.”
“You know what Mr Gurdjieff said? He said: “All pleasure is shit”. He said that with a purpose, with an intention. Pleasure is what I lose myself in. He qualified it, however, he added: “Unless it is intentionally planned for the purpose of my work”. But then one has to know what that means. No one could express greater pleasure than he did.”
“Last week you expostulated about working not to be miserable. Perhaps you see now, you work to be. For the moment, forget about “not being” anything at all. Just work to be present, for your aim, with an intention; and then, misery or pleasure, it’s all of a oneness.”