joseph azize
For several decades, numerous books and explications have been published on the profoundly insightful philosophy and teachings of G.I. Gurdjieff. Some were written by the man himself, and many by those who worked with him. But while Gurdjieff himself included a few of the guided exercises that formed a major part of the actual practice of his ideas in Life Is Real Only Then, When "I Am", until recently no other book has focused on these exercises, which are designed to bring those practicing them to a greater state of self-awareness and 'conscious evolution'.

Though the exercises have been carried on by some, many have fallen out of practice, been forgotten, altered, or replaced by exercises Gurdjieff never taught. And there has been a reluctance to share with those not directly part of these groups - leaving few, if any, outside of these organizations with the knowledge of their practice. This has now changed. In his new book, Gurdjieff: Mysticism, Contemplation, & Exercises, Father Joseph Azize has lifted the veil of secrecy surrounding the great mystic's direct approaches to helping individuals grow, including all the previously published exercises in addition to several previously unpublished and at risk of being forgotten. Azize's book is the first to be devoted exclusively to the exercises and their extensive analysis.

On this week's MindMatters, we speak with Father Joseph Azize not only about his own time working with some of Gurdjieff's students, but also about his decision to go forward with his book, and what he feels is the true value of this newly shared information. We also get to discuss what this long-time practitioner thinks are some of the most essential aspects of the human condition - after many years of distilling the information for his own growth and vocation.

Part 2 is coming next week.

Running Time: 00:59:13

Download: MP3 — 54.2 MB

Below are links to some very accessible writings of Father Azize's which are discussed on the show:
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Here's the transcript of the show:

Joseph: He said that we were more like Daleks but inside the Dalek case there was a dervish.

Harrison: And that's Dalek as in Doctor Who?

Joseph: Yes, that's right. If only we could open up that Dalek armour, the dervish would emerge from inside the robot.

Harrison: Welcome back to Mind Matters everyone. I'm Harrison Koehli. Joining me is my co-host Elan Martin.

Elan: Hello.

Harrison: Today we will be interviewing Father Joseph Azize. Joseph is a Maronite priest, has his PhD in ancient history, was a practicing attorney for several years and is a published author of several books and academic papers. Among those papers are several on George Gurdjieff's work and related topics and ideas. He is also the author of the recently published book Gurdjieff: Mysticism, Contemplation and Exercises. This was published by Oxford University Press just in January. As we'll see during the interview, I know from my perspective it's one of the most important books to come out about Gurdjieff in decades, I'd say, probably the last 50 years or so.

So to start out with, we want to give a warm welcome to Joseph Azize. Welcome to the show Joseph.

Joseph: Thanks Harrison. Thanks Elan.

Harrison: Maybe, jumping into our first question, can you tell us a bit about what led you to finding the Gurdjieff work and how you first got involved?

Joseph: Yes. I'd like to start with when I was actually three or four years old because it's going to become relevant later on. I was young and my father was setting up Christmas decorations in the house and I asked him what he was doing and he explained the Christmas story to me and at that moment I had a mystical experience. Now, children can have mystical experiences more readily because as Gurdjieff said they're more in essence. The higher parts of centers are closer to them. The centers work more in harmony. It's not unusual for children to have these ineffable experiences. This one has remained with me all my life so I knew that there was a divine dimension and it was intimately associated for me with Christmas and the story of the birth of our Lord.

Anyhow, that's quite fundamental for me, that experience. As I was growing up I have to say I was underachieving pretty badly. As a teenager more than that, I was in a fairly constant state of fear. I was in a constant state of neurosis and I was going nowhere fast. A very good friend of mine named Greene introduced me to Gurdjieff. He took me to a bookshop. He showed me a picture of Gurdjieff. He said something about Gurdjieff and his ideas and he explained it to me in terms of Daleks and dervishes - this is original Greene - he said that we were more like Daleks but inside the Dalek case there was a dervish.

Harrison: And that's Dalek as in Doctor Who?

Joseph: Yes that's right.

Harrison: Okay.

Joseph: If only we could open up that Dalek armour, the dervish would emerge from inside the robot. He also said to me that he'd met some people who'd been in Gurdjieff groups and they were people of an extraordinary quality. That made an impression on me and then not long after that, within about two or three years, I met by chance a lady who was quite elderly at that time, but when she was younger she told me, she had been a pupil of George Adie who had himself been a pupil of Gurdjieff and Ouspensky. She served as my sort of introduction to Mr. Adie. I rang Mr. Adie and Mrs. Adie answered the phone. We had a very short but good conversation. She put me on to Mr. Adie and when I spoke to him he said, "Well look, as you're a law student, you can't come up to the group right now. You've got too much on. You've got to concentrate on that because the Work demands a commitment and I said to Mr. Adie, "But Mr. Adie, if I obtained objective consciousness wouldn't that help me pass my law exam?"

He laughed the best-natured laugh I've ever heard in my life and he said "Yes." He said "If you had objective consciousness it would help you with your law exams." He said "Objective consciousness isn't so easy to come by." That was a wonderful start to our relationship.

So he invited me to phone him and I did. I phoned him regularly. He suggested books I should read and then after I'd read the books I'd discuss one with him and he invited me up to Newport to see what they had there. But he was quite clear. This was his stage of preparation for me. I had to come back later on.

So when I finished a law degree I contacted him. He invited me back up. We had another meeting and that was an extraordinary meeting too. And then after that I was accepted to join him. That was 1982 by now. So I was with Mr. Adie until he died some seven years later in 1989.

Harrison: Can you tell us a bit about what the practical dimension of working with George and his wife Helen was like? What kind of activities or exercises were you given to carry out in your everyday life? Basically, what kind of just practical dimension was involved in the work of those seven years?

Joseph: Yes. Well in some ways the most important thing of all was really the contact with Mr. and Mrs. Adie because there was something about them which could pass from person to person and if you were open to it you received something directly from being with them. I realize that now. I didn't realize it so much at the time. When I first met them I thought of them as teachers almost like schoolteachers, able to impart information. But it was more than that and it was more even than their example, important as their example was. Things could take place in their presence which couldn't take place otherwise and I can give you some examples later on. In fact that was also true that Mrs. Staveley whom I met later on.

But more specifically, when I first met Mr. Adie one of the things he did was challenge my ideas. It was as if he was trying to reorder my thought, to have me thinking logically and at the same time to have a feeling element in the thought. That's why we initially worked with books because I couldn't come up and join them. So he asked me to read things then we would discuss them. And it wasn't just an intellectual grasp of the ideas he was looking at. He was looking for a feeling response as well. And so he was helping me to read the books with more than just my head. But then when he did actually invite me up to Newport, he observed for example, how I moved and he asked me, "Well can you stop putting your fingers to your face the way you do?"

So I had to interrupt that habit while I was speaking with him and then I went to put my fingers to my face five minutes later and he saw it at once. He didn't have to say anything. I could see he saw it and he was able to draw the lesson from that. It's not so easy to interrupt these mechanical habits. And that was a very good, very gentle way of showing that to me.

And then when I actually joined the group, well first of all he asked for a commitment. He said, "You don't just come to the group to see as a sort of trial period. You commit." And I agreed to the idea of the commitment, not really knowing what I was saying, but he had insisted on that and fortunately he had because that stayed with me during some difficult periods. And then when we went up the first thing really that he taught us was the morning preparation. We had what he called a combined meeting where all the students came together. There were about a hundred with us. He gave a preparation. I didn't understand at the time what it was, but that preparation is one of the ones which I have transcribed and placed in the book.

Then after he had given us that, we sat there silently while Mrs. Adie played some of the music and that was very deliberate. They used the music to extend that contemplative state which we were in but also it extends it, it continues it but it changes it very subtly. It introduces a new influence, the influence of Gurdjieff's music. So it was also preparing the feeling. The whole person is mobilized by the preparation which aims to bring the mind, the feeling and the organic instinct into harmony and also be lifted up at the same time. There's a certain aspiration, and then the music which brings a predominantly feeling impact, although you also sensed it in your body. Having someone like Mrs. Adie, who had been a major concert pianist in England, having someone like her play the piano while you were there, the vibrations entered your body at once.

Then after that Mr. Adie brought some ideas and we discussed the ideas. He gave us a task for each month. We took that away and then you'd come back for weekend work so that Saturday and Sunday there was weekend work. Again, the weekend work began with the morning preparation and the weekend work preparations were gently shorter and simpler than the ones on the Wednesday night. Then we'd have a meal together. At breakfast Mr. Adie would give a theme for the day and then there'd be a briefing and Mr. Adie would discuss what we'd be doing.

He had the most extraordinary practical intelligence. The way he explained the jobs we'd be on. what we'd do. how we'd work on them. So then you go out to about three to three-and-a-half hours, working generally in a workshop or in the open with someone. And Mr. Adie would walk around from time to time checking and watching. Often he didn't have to say anything. He'd just look. But he would sometimes come over to the job and it was a confrontation. And then at lunch there would be reading from All And Everything. We'd have lunch, exchange questions. We'd bring our observations of the morning work. Mr. Adie would say something, give us clues. We'd go back to the afternoon and then the same thing in the evening and that was the end of a weekend work.

And then during the week there would be group meetings with Mr. and Mrs. Adie and there would also be work at the movements with Mrs. Adie. So there was the living engagement with those two people. There was the preparation and the exercises which they gave us. There was a practical work together. There were tasks and disciplines they gave us to use during the week. And then there'd be exchanges on those tasks and disciplines with them during the week. There were movements with Mrs. Adie at which Mr. Adie sometimes assisted. And there'd be reading from All In Everything during the week. The number of pages would be allocated.

So all those things were part of the equation.

Harrison: So your weeks must have been pretty full when you were engaging in that work. So where were you personally working or going to school during this time? Was it a Wednesday evening thing and then you'd go for the weekend work and then you'd kind of engage in your normal life for the weekdays? How did that work exactly?

Joseph: Yeah but most of the period I was working as an attorney.

Harrison: Okay.

Joseph: I'd be an attorney Monday to Friday and when necessary, doing some extra legal work on the weekend. But I'd be going up at least one night a week to Newport with the Adies and every second weekend. Initially I began just one day of the weekend, so it was one day each two weeks with the week of work. Eventually as I became more serious I went both days of every weekend. So it would be two days one weekend, nothing the next weekend, two days the next weekend. And it was quite a commitment and that was why when I was a law student he wouldn't let me come up.

Harrison: Yeah.

Joseph: Then eventually as I acquired more responsibility, he gave me other positions. He had me working in the library. So on the off weekends I'd come up to work on the library. Then he had me working on the transcriptions of his material and so I'd also come up to work with him on those. If there was some other task I had to do for him, I'd come up specially for that.

There were also groups which planned the men's work and which planned the women's work. They would come up during the week as well. So depending on the level of responsibility, it could really be quite demanding.

Harrison: Well I think we might get more into that period of your life and that aspect of the practical work a little bit later on. For now I want to change gears just a little bit because you mentioned the preparation. So I think this is a good opportunity to get into more of the content of your book. I'll show it again here for viewers.

I'll give a little bit of background and then maybe if I say anything totally wrong you can correct me in your response Joseph. This book, I believe, is the first one to be devoted completely to Gurdjieff's exercises. Now we'll get into what exactly that means because as far as I understand, for years after Gurdjieff's death in most of the published accounts, at least, this is for people who weren't necessarily directly involved in the Gurdjieff work through organizations like the Gurdjieff foundation, for people on the outside, no one really knew about these exercises.

There were hints in various published accounts about a kind of oral tradition or the need for a direct passing on of certain aspects of this kind of esoteric knowledge, but there was no real idea of what it actually was. Then in more recent decades there were little hints published in various accounts of these exercises, how Gurdjieff would give certain exercises to do, but with no in-depth explanation of what these actually entailed or how to go about engaging in these kinds of exercises.

This brings us to, I'd say, the last 10-15 years where a lot of material has now been published. We have the Paris meetings with Gurdjieff's French pupils from the early 1940s. Then we have of course Madame de Saltzman. We have the published version of her notebooks/notes/diary The Reality of Being. Then a book that was published, I believe in 2013 if I remember correctly. Gurdjieff And The Women of the Rope which is the transcription or the notes of Katherine Hume and Solita Solano of their time working with Gurdjieff in the 1930s.

In all these works there are many references to the exercises but also some descriptions of the actual exercises themselves, but still in a kind of fragmentary form. Sometimes we'll just get a reference to an exercise with the name of it and they will have been working on it for a period of time and asking Gurdjieff questions and getting advice. But still there has never been a kind of concrete, in-depth analysis or transcription of these exercises because these have been secretly guarded and passed on only in this oral tradition.

So that's where you, Joseph, come in with your book and not only the decision to publish it and to publish some exercises that have never been published before, but to actually do an in-depth analysis of all of them at the same time, so looking at all of the elements, integrating them into a kind of chronology of Gurdjieff's career and looking at your theory of where they come from, the influences that Gurdjieff might have used in order to create some of these exercises.

So maybe to begin with, you can tell me if I got anything horribly wrong in there, and maybe can you tell us a bit about your decision to work on this book and why you thought it was necessary to publish what were previously considered to be secret things that should not be published?

Joseph: Yeah. First of all everything you said was correct, there were no errors there. The next thing which it's useful to bear in mind is that the first serious book published on Gurdjieff's ideas was In Search of the Miraculous which appeared in 1949. As I say in the book, the theoretical basis of the ideas which is outlined there is also the basis of the exercises for preparation and all the exercises. He gives a very important clue to their origin when he speaks about what happens at Mount Athos with the ego exercise and how as a monk pronounces the word in Greek "ego", his sense of himself is moved from center to center, brain to brain, from body to feeling and so on.

As I explain, these exercises were not shown to Ouspensky. I don't believe Gurdjieff even at that time, as I say in the book, I believe did not wish to use the exercises. He later decided that they were absolutely necessary so that's why Ouspensky didn't have them and Ouspensky's book really set the tone for how people perceive Gurdjieff and it's part of the reason why people often thought of Gurdjieff as being very intellectual and maybe even unnecessarily complex. The other book that was published in 1950 was Beelzebub's Tales to His Grandson, All And Everything and some very important material for the exercises is found there and I explain that and even in Book One, a very primitive form of one of the exercises for Morning Preparation is given. But you'd never be able to work out from that, or from the other references, what he's speaking about in practical terms and that's partly what my book tries to do, so that even people who've been in Gurdjieff groups for a long time are now saying to me that as a result of my book they can understand better what Gurdjieff is referring to in All And Everything and they can see the practical meaning of what they had thought were simply abstract ideas, probably there in order to baffle them.

That's the first thing. The next thing is that the very most important exercises of all were made public in the mid-1970s in Life Is Real Only Then When I Am, all the published versions had the basic exercises beginning with the Soil Preparing Exercise and going on to some of the others. And in particular, they have in Life Is Real, the Third Series, Gurdjieff speaks about a three-centered sensing of "I am", sensing my own being, sensing my own presence and he describes exercises for that.

As you'll see from the book, that's actually the foundation of my book. The exercises in the third series were made public in the 1970s. There's a very strange thing. Some people did use them, but a lot of people don't use them and I often speak with people who were in Gurdjieff groups and they have never, ever worked with any of the exercises in the Third Series, which to me is extraordinary.

Harrison: Yup.

Joseph: Mr. Adie used those exercises and he said these are the basis for our work, those exercises. So they were absolutely the most important exercises. The next important series was the series in Reality of Being, the Madame de Salzmann book. A tremendous deal was published there, including a rather - I don't say this to be pejorative - but primitive form of the Four Ideals Exercise. It is the Four Ideals Exercise which Gurdjieff gave Mr. Adie, but many of the most important things are left out. So that was the first one which I chose to publish.

I published that as an article and the reason for that was I don't really think the question is whether to publish or not to publish. I think it's a little bit deeper than that. I think the question is how is it published well or is it published badly? So with the Four Ideals Exercise, I thought that there was real value in publishing the whole of it for anybody who was seriously interested. And incidentally, I've had correspondence from people in Gurdjieff groups saying that the exercise as published now in form explains a lot of things that they hadn't understood before. If you compare it with what's in Madame de Salzmann's book, I think it would be difficult to disagree with that.

And then the other set of exercises which I placed in that book, most of them were published in Life Is Real, in Reality Of Being, and then in the transcripts, and the transcripts were already published so I commented on those. They are probably 80 to 90 percent of the exercises in the book. The other exercises which I placed in the book were the exercises from Mr. Adie which were in danger of being lost, in particular the Color Spectrum Exercise and the Clear Impressions Exercise. If I hadn't published them, they would have been lost. And the Color Spectrum Exercise, as I show, does relate to something which Gurdjieff says in the Third Series but doesn't continue. I think that the Color Spectrum Exercise helps to understand what Gurdjieff meant in the Third Series a bit better. So, that's why I published those and I do hope that they'll be of assistance to future generations but also very importantly, very importantly, I think that a consideration of those exercises helps to show that really, Gurdjieff was a mystic.

A lot of people ask what was Gurdjieff? I mean some people say he was a charlatan, he was just someone trying to make a good living out of pretence to esoteric knowledge. Other people say he was a forerunner of the New Age movement, he borrowed things from the Sufis, he did this. I think I show the Gurdjieff is in fact a mystic, that there's something about the divine dimension and the connection with the divine which is intrinsic to his system, that he really was, as he said to Dr. Lester, a colleague of the great teachers and that it is not a left-hand path as some people say. It's got nothing to do with occultism. It's much closer to mystic spirituality, the Hesychast tradition in the Orthodox Church, for example.

So I'm hoping that people will see Gurdjieff as a more serious, more spiritual teacher, more in line with someone like Meister Eckhart than someone like, for example, Aleister Crowley.

Elan: So Joseph in the preparation exercise that you lay out in its various forms, there is a concentration on self-awareness and the body and the immediate atmosphere surrounding the person who's practicing the preparation first thing in the morning. What's explained about it in your essays is that there is a kind of accessing to substances or hydrogens which is a term were most familiar with having read In Search Of The Miraculous, and that there is a kind of connection that is being made to more ethereal, non-physical energies and things that the totality of our being requires in order to subsist. I wonder if you can, for the layperson, give some idea as to what these hydrogens are, these substances are, and what the preparation exercise is designed to facilitate.

Joseph: Yeah. It's not possible to give a completely exhaustive black-and-white answer to something like that. It's embarking on something which has something of the element of the mystery about it, but this is my approach anyhow. It will change over time I'm sure, but still I'll make a start on it.

What Gurdjieff says is that we have three foods. The first food is the ordinary food and drink which we take and we need that for the nourishment of the body. He also says that air is a food, that air contains many substances which we need to nourish our bodies and we know that if we stop breathing, we'll die shortly. But Gurdjieff also says that there were very fine substances in the air, substances which we don't know about, which are too subtle for us to be able to extract from the air and to chemically analyze, but which he says are nonetheless there, and these substances have a particular role in feeding what he calls our feeling. Our feeling which brings us to a sense of ourselves, is very closely related to our essence, the real us, the real I, not just the personality.

So to feed the deeper parts of me, I need to be able to receive the air, and to be nourished by it. And Gurdjieff says that it's possible to obtain more nourishment from the air than we do right now if we understand his secret. This is the secret of the sly man, He actually refers to it in In Search of the Miraculous. He says that what takes a yogi a day to do, the sly man can do in a minute. He just prepares a drink and consumes it. And I think he's referring to these exercises involving the breathing which is set out in the book. And of course the most important of these is found in the Third Series and in Reality Of Being.

And then Gurdjieff said there's also a third food, the food of impressions, that there just as we would die very quickly as we couldn't breathe, we would die even faster if we could no longer receive impressions. And he says there were a whole range of impressions. The fact that impressions can be a food for us means that impressions are material and this is central to Gurdjieff's system, that impressions are actually material. We know that some things don't seem to be material but they are. We know that sunlight is always depositing materials on the earth. Well, Gurdjieff says impressions also deposit a material inside us, but as with food and as with air, we can digest them better or worse. We know that if we gulp down our food, we don't get the maximum nourishment from it. It's the same with air, the same with impressions.

So that in these exercises Gurdjieff says a way to obtain more from impressions is to collect myself. If I have a sensation of my body and I'm consciously receiving the air with an intention to retain the active elements in the air and I'm consciously receiving the impressions, I can assimilate them and make them operate within me in a far more effective way than otherwise they could. That's why in these exercises, the air will be received and then might be directed to different parts of the body, and the same with impressions. I'm receiving impressions all the time but I receive them more consciously in the Preparation and the exercises.

At so many stages they are designed for that. For example, in the relaxation, I make a point of stressing what Mr. and Mrs. Adie said about relaxing very fine parts of the body, parts of the body we never think to relax ordinarily, underneath the chin, the eyeballs, the eyeball in the eye socket. This very fine attention brought to those parts of the body is itself a nourishment of parts of me which otherwise would not be fed, at least not fed that efficiently and to that degree.

So the exercises and preparations may be a sort of a way of extracting super food from the air and the impressions which we are always receiving, but now receiving consciously. Now there's much to be said but I don't want to just be speaking forever.

Elan: Oh that was pretty good. Thank you.

Harrison: Well yeah, there's so much there and so many directions we can go to. I want to make a connection with some of the more general ideas in what you just said about the preparation ther and specifically about the attention directed towards impressions and how that acts as a as a kind of digestion of impressions akin to the digestion that goes on in our food because of course one of the main things that Gurdjieff relates in, well, all of his material is that we are asleep, that we act mechanically, that we do things automatically.

So in his description of the human machine or the human organism, there is this process of the digestion of food and water which we can see and we can know that it takes place automatically. We don't have to think or direct our stomach to engage in digestion or excretion. That stuff all just happens automatically. So there's an automaticity to the digestion of food that is pretty tangible and obvious to our perception.

But then if we look at something like breathing, we can and do breathe automatically without our conscious perception. Of course we breathe when we're asleep at night. We breathe when we're engaged in any kind of activity with our attention directed to anything. So we're automatically breathing and we might not even be aware that we're breathing. But the difference with breathing is that we do have some degree of control over it and we can observe it much more closely than we can observe our digestion, for instance. We might feel a little bit of rumbling down there, but other than that it pretty much goes automatically.

So there's an attention that can be directed to the breath that isn't found in the digestion of food and the same thing with the impressions that we receive. Our sensory impressions of the world around us and the world around us which is our body too. We are constantly receiving sensory impressions from our bodies, signals from our bodies, whether they be pressure on our skin or the movements that we make, the postures that we take, all of those signals are being sent through the nervous system and on some level we can or cannot be aware of them. Again, we can be totally unaware of our postures or our movements. You gave the example of the touching of your face that George Adie pointed out. We have all of these habits that we don't even realize that we have, but again like breathing we can come to observe them and to, ideally I think in Gurdjieff's case, to have a constant presence that is observing what the body is doing and what is being received on all these levels.

So there is that addition of consciousness, of that directedness towards our own organism that I think is intimately tied with that digestion process. So it seems to me that the preparation is kind of like a mini monasticism. It's giving yourself a little period of time during the day, in the morning, to be a monk and to engage in some kind of activity. Because we can't do that all the time, or at least when you start out, you need to kind of practice at it, right? So would you say that that is a good purpose for the preparation, both to bring the addition of consciousness to the processes in our body and our manifestations that are ordinarily automatic? Maybe the way to express the second idea is to ask why is it called the Preparation? What are we preparing for each morning?

Joseph: Yeah. We've only started on this, but because there are other elements which are relevant to the preparation and the exercises, but the one you've mentioned now Harrison, is extremely important. It's a preparation for the whole of my life which comes after it. That very minute I'm preparing for this moment and what will come after it. In the book I try to show how Mr. Adie and Mrs. Adie followed Gurdjieff in that by the end of the Preparation, I should have a program for that day. On the website I've put a few posts just on the program. The program is very important. So that at the end of a preparation for example, I've made an appointment with myself that I will try and come to myself, for example, at 9 a.m., 12 noon, 3 p.m., 6 p.m. But of course you can change the times. It might be, for example, 9:17 a.m., 1:11 p.m., 6:24 p.m., whatever, so that I can't have the preparation and that state all the way during the day, but I can have the influence of the Preparation during the day. And having those appointments helps to make a connection to the Preparation.

And then, in addition, the task for the day is set at the preparation. So in the Preparation I come to my aim. Gurdjieff spoke about the importance of an aim. For example, to die an honorable death, not to die like a dog. But how do I die an honorable death? I need a plan. And so in the Preparation I remind myself yes, this is my aim. I wish to die an honorable death. I need a plan. What will I do today? Let's say for today my plan is to observe the sensation of my right hand. And then, while I'm working at a particular task, I try and divide my attention between myself and what I'm doing, and I use the sensation of the right hand as a reminder. And then I have these appointments during the day.

So all these are methods of having the influence of the Preparation available during the day. I remember when I first started with Mr. Adie and I was finding my way, I very soon decided that I would take, for example, and it was, it was 3 p.m. That was one of the appointments. And the very first day I'd taken 3 p.m. as a time for an appointment and I was going to try to be aware of my feet on the ground at the appointed time. I was in a conference with a barrister - a trial attorney in the USA - and it's to me now as clear as if it happened last week. I was in his chambers, I had my feet on the ground, I'm speaking with him, the sunlight's coming in through the window and I'm almost at sea. But there is an effort. There is an effort to remember myself at 3 o'clock and to remember my feet on the ground and not to let him know that I was doing something.

Yeah, I wasn't going to suddenly stop, adopt a Buddha posture and chant ohm or something like that. I had to continue to play the role of his instructing solicitor during this legal conference.

Harrison: Sure.

Joseph: On another occasion I was having an MRI scan and in the Preparation I made the plan that I would try to specifically remember myself during the MRI scan. Again, very vivid moment because it's not easy to do that during a scan. Gurdjieff gave examples and he linked some of them to his exercises. I might know, but I'm going to be speaking to this person. I make an effort to remember myself while I'm speaking to this person, in particular to a person that I find difficulties with, you know, one of those uncomprehending idiots that get sent my way, {laughter} not to lose my patience with them, not to be angry, that type of thing.

Elan: Well, one of the components to some of the versions of the Preparation was this kind of affirmation of "I am" that could be breathed in and breathe out, in with the 'I' and out with the 'am'. In thinking on it, one of the ideas that Gurdjieff proposes is that his work is all about the growth of being and the evolution of consciousness. The means to that would seem to be the expansion of consciousness of one's own self and an awareness of one's own thinking and feeling and being. I wonder Joseph if you could - I don't know how connected to that specifically it is - but it struck me that 'I am', that those very simple words, go some way towards the acknowledgement of one's being, to oneself. I wonder if you might comment on that.

Joseph: Elan, almost the whole of everything Gurdjieff brought is summed up in those words because, as he said to Maurice Nicoll, behind real 'I' lies God. He sometimes said that from one perspective only God can really say 'I am'. When we have this affirmation 'I am', it's good if the words actually mean something to me. I should have some sense preceding in me every time I speak those words and I'll find that I'm engaged on a mystery. What they mean to me is going to change and develop and some days I'll be in view of something, something very high and on other days it will seem to be distant. It will seem to be lost. That means I'm lost.

Real 'I' is a very big thing. Real 'I' is not just in time. It might be right to say that it's in eternity but manifests in time. And to say 'am', what does that mean? It's not just subsistence. There's an existence as well. There is as you said, an affirmation. I'm not just passively, as it were, experiencing this life. I am participating in my life and because real 'I' is connected with God, the more I am present to myself, the closer I am to the experience of the presence of God.

This is why I say that Gurdjieff is really a mystic,and he became more overtly religious the longer he lived so that at the end of his life, he was attending church regularly. And this is a direction which many of Gurdjieff's major pupils took. Bennett attended Mass every Sunday. I'm told that Madame de Salzmann did as well. Really Elan, what you ask I could expand in so many directions. That's just a first approach to it. Does that address the sort of thing you were inquiring about?

Elan: Oh yes. I mean these are the big questions, aren't they? There are so many dimensions to them, so many realizations that we try to come to personally in looking at this material and understanding it on an experiential level as well. Just to get back to the sheer fact of your publishing this material as a means, as a bridge, to know or have at least the potential to know more what Gurdjieff and Ouspensky and others were saying theoretically, to have that direct experience that can be possibly achieved and known through 15 minutes, 20 minutes in the morning through this exercise through the Four Ideals, to know for oneself that personal growth is possible, is there, in potential if we choose to practice these things and to discipline ourselves enough to every day consider how it is we're thinking on our being. So it's like you say Joseph, it's not something you can answer in a few sentences. It's a process as much as it is a definition.

Harrison: I'll direct that conversation into another area and that is the body itself and sensation, because I believe the last exercise that Gurdjieff gave George Adie was a simple one. It's a variation on one of the exercises in the Third Series, which is associating the 'I am' 'I' with the solar plexus and 'am' with the spinal column and the brain. In Gurdjieff's system there is the emotional presence in the solar plexus and the whole range of the sensory apparatus in the spinal column. So the 'am' in that case is associated with the body and the totality of sensation. So there's the 'I' which like you said Joseph, might have this aspect of eternity, that it only manifests in time but there's an eternal aspect to it, and then 'am' is associated with the body itself, with the flesh, with sensation and there are these two aspects of our being.

Joseph, would you like to comment on that and specifically on the importance of sensation and the body for Gurdjieff.

Joseph: Yes. When I say 'I', which 'I' is speaking? What is the quality of that 'I'? Who is speaking and from where? And then when I say 'am', what is the quality of that and from where does it come? This is why the way Mr. Adie brought it, we would affirm that three times three, sensing it where it sounded in the body, because if I speak those words they sound in the body, and they will infallibly tell me something about my state. I might not be able to put it into words but if at the end of the Preparation I speak those words, I intone them with that meaning, it will tell me something about my state and my body. I will feel something in my body. I would sense it and I will feel it.

This quality of sensation, this quality of feeling builds a bridge to the higher qualities of feeling and intellect that are available to me because there are higher centers which are always contemplating eternity, which are always receiving grace from the divine level but I'm not in contact with them. But, if I have this sense of myself, of my own reality, of my own being, the truer and the firmer it is - when I say firm I don't mean rigid, granite-like, but there's a certain certainty which is also dynamic, a certain firmness which is also dynamic like a martial artist in motion. The more I have of that, the closer I come to higher, more mysterious experiences of this, so that the 'I' opens and expands. It includes more and yet the focus remains here. There's still a central place, my personality, my ordinary fears, anxieties, concerns for vanity, for pride can't hold when I'm in that state. They fall off. They will return later. They're only made passive during the period of the Preparation.

But having had that state of greater clarity, greater being, a truer, cleaner reality, that gives me a sort of point of comparison with what's going to happen during the day so that everyone that worked with us would say, they'd bring observations to be the Adies all the time. "During the day I felt a big gap between how I'd been in the Preparation and how I was now and that very gap, that very comparison calls me." It's a help if I don't just react guiltily with what Gurdjieff called bad conscience saying "Oh, I'm a bad boy. I'm forgetting myself. Aren't I bad!'" Slap on the wrist.

If I take it as a reminder, yes, my present state now is low but my state doesn't have to be that low. I know it was better not too long ago earlier today. That can call me and again I receive some of the influence of what I came to in the Preparation. That's just my formulation but you'll have your own. This was one of the advantages of being in a real group. We could share around formulations. We could share our own perspectives. You'd see people changing, see people developing.