Gurdjieff's Contemplative Exercises

whitecoast

The Living Force
FOTCM Member
I read and quite enjoyed the book Gurdjieff: Mysticism, Contemplation, and Exercises by Joseph Azize, who had appeared in a couple of interesting interviews on Mind Matters. As far as Gurdjieff studies go, this book is noteworthy for compiling and discussing the variety of internal exercises that Gurdjieff taught to his students, possible sources of the exercises, as well as how and why Gurdjieff developed them within the scope of his aims and practices based on the type of work he was engaged in at certain times in his teaching career. I feel like this added context did provide an extra dimension of understanding, and did line up with some of my own observations while reading other biographical materials about Gurdjieff from Ouspensky, William Patrick Patterson, and others related anecdotes sprinkled throughout the forum here.

PART ONE lays the foundation for discussing Gurdjieff's teaching periods and the personal influences working on and through him. He brings up what is called Transformed Contemplation, which is a term used to describe Gurdjieff's active internal contemplative exercises. He uses the adjective to distinguish it from regular contemplation, which for Gurdjieff had a lot of associations with idleness, imbalance in the centers, imagination, etc which spurred Gurdjieff to eschew these types of exercises for a portion of his teaching career.

Chapter One gives a biographical sketch of Gurdjieff, detailing as much as was known from his life before his work with Ouspensky in Russia, his early teaching career in Russia, France, Britain, and eventually the United States. A.R. Orage and his role in the US school was gone into detail as well. The falling-out Gurdjieff had with both Ouspensky and Orage are mentioned, and Azize offers speculation as to some of the causes of it. His later work with de Salzmann and the movements was also described. As much detail as this section had, one could easily fill an entire book with Gurdjieff's biography (and many have). Some may find this recap helpful to see what Azize picks out as relevant information with respect to how and why Gurdjieff promulgated some of the exercises and disciplines he practiced.

Chapter Two gives an overview of Gurdjieff's teachings on cosmology and anthropology. The holistic, unified nature of all reality from the microcosmos to the macro is discussed, as well as the materiality of thought and emotion in the scale of hydrogens. This cosmology is related directly to the function of the human organism, qualifying that in our fallen state we are dived into various i's and only unified in the sense that we are all asleep. Sleep is contrasted with doing in terms of the centers, especially with respect to self-remembering and reaching an awareness of the operation of all 3 of our lower centers. The food factory and diagram showing the evolution of hydrogens in the human body and psyche is elaborated on. While speaking about consciousness, Azize also devotes time to discussing the importance of conscience (i.e. wakefulness in the higher emotional center and awareness of all our emotions at once). All of this information is tied back into cosmology by his notions of Duty and Intentional Suffer to "pay for our existence."

A section devoted to religiosity in G's work brings together biographical details to show Gurdjieff's somewhat ambivalent relationship with Christianity, the Gospels, and priests. In spite this, and the decidedly un-Christian notion that God (or the Absolute, depending on how Gurdjieff wished to frame it) could not listen to human prayers directly, Gudjieff's writings did have a respect for the religiosity of the normal everyday human beings, which can help someone become an obyvatel or at least provide a decent foundation for the Work. His music was also evidenced to be influenced heavily by Christianity, Sufism, and Lamaism (of Tibet).

Chapter Three is about Gurdjieff's relationship with the mystical tradition in religious thought. Azize expounds on Gurdjieff's definition of mystical experience, which is described in a much more technical manner than most mystical scholars would, which tend to focus on the nature of the experience. Gurdjieff defines mystical experience as an incident in which the lower emotional or intellectual center make contact with the higher emotional or intellectual center, which function perfectly well all the time but due to the fragmented nature of the lower centers almost never make contact. Such a contact is experienced as a rush of information from higher sources that the lower centers cannot digest or comprehend fully, resulting in often little of the experience being consciously remembered except during the start and end of the experience.

Looking for parallels in Gurdjieff's thought and other mystical traditions, what I found most remarkable about this section is that Azize found very strong corollaries in Gurdjieff's own backyard: in the traditions of Neoplatonism and the Athonite monastic tradition (of Eastern Orthodoxy), most notably the Prayer of the Heart or Hesychastic tradition; both of which are Greek.

The specific Neoplatonic thinkers whose words echo G's own technical understanding of mysticism are Iambachus and Plotinus, which while being distinct enough from Gurdjieff for him not to be considered Neoplatonic would have more than likely thinkers Gurdjieff would have become acquainted with either first or second hand in his early life, and likely influenced his outlook.

In Ennead 4.8, "The Descent of the Soul into Bodies," Plotinus states:

"our soul does not altogether come down, but there is always something of it in the intelligible; but if the part which is in the world of sense-perception gets control, or rather if it is itself brought under control, and thrown into confusion [by the body], it prevents us from perceiving the things which the upper soul contemplates."

A complementary reason for our obliviousness of the activity of the higher parts of the soul is offered in 4.3, "On Difficulties about the Soul: I," where Plotinus states that the "image-making-power" (phantastikon) does not receive the impression of the ceaseless activity of the nous (i.e. the faculty that knows God), because its occupied (or perhaps "preoccupied") with the receipt of perceptions. Then, in Ennead 2.9.2, "Against the Gnostics," he states:

"there is one intellect (hena nous), changeably the same, without any sort of decline, imitating the Father as far as is possible to it: and that one part of our soul is always directed to the intelligible realities, so to the things of this world, and one is in the middle between these; for since the soul is one nature in many powers, sometimes the whole of it is carried along with the best of itself and of real being (tou ontos), sometimes the worst part is dragged down and drags the middle with it; for is not lawful for it to drag down the whole."

In spite of the differences shared about there are still more differences than similarities. Neoplatonists believe strongly in an immortal soul one is given at birth for example. There is no emphasis on an alchemy of any kind, and any discussion of human development is spoken of in terms of attaining the Virtues, rather than obtaining consciousness and conscience.
The Orthodox hesychastic tradition is one which Gurdjieff has claimed to be indebted, especially with respect to the "I am" spiritual exercise Gurdjieff shared, which seemed to come more or less directly from the "Ego" exercise of Mt Athos, which was a monastic tradition and institution which became the foremost center of Hesychasm, or the Prayer of the Heart. One central tenet of this tradition is that it takes VERY SERIOUSLY St Paul's exhortation to "pray unceasingly," and much of their exercises center around bringing the prayerful state a monk attains in his cell into the everyday existence and activities of life.

This in some way is an answer to G's criticism of the physical, emotional, and mental spiritual schools, which require retirement from the world to refine oneself. G's criticism was that people would attain something, but then return to the world only to lose what they gained and fall back into their earlier habits (and as we shall see this did come to have an overpowering influence on G's teaching methodologies in Russia and France in the early years, until G's relationship with Orage developed and withered. Gurdjieff eschewed internal, contemplative exercises in favor of disciplines involving working out in the world, among the shocks necessary to wake one up. Gurdjieff later in his teaching career reversed this position, stating that "work in the quiet" (as de Salzmann would call it) was necessary to develop some internal resources in order to remember oneself when the shocks did come later in life.

The Philokalia (a book on the monastic and ascetic tradition of the early Church fathers with particular attention to the Greek) was a collection of Athonite hesychastic traditions compiled at the start of the 18th century which made its way into Russian in the 19th Century and later into English in the 20th century by the work of Ouspensky's wife. The material therein played a great role in the monastic religious revival in Russia in the 19th century, and was something both Gurdjieff and Ouspensky would have had familiarity. The writings bearing the most resemblance would be those of Nicephorus the Solitary (or the Monk), who was known for A Most Profitable Discourse on Sobriety and the Guarding of the Heart:

"Attention is a sign of sincere repentance. Attention is the appeal of the soul to itself, hatred of the world and ascent towards God..... Attention is the beginning of contemplation, or rather its necessary condition; for, through attention, God comes close and reveals himself to the mind.... Attention means cutting off thoughts, it is the abode of the remembrance of God.... Therefore attention is the origin of faith, hope, and love."
The last sentence notably has been used more or less verbatim by both Gurdjieff and his mouthpiece Beelzebub.

"...[Breathing] is a natural way to the heart. And so, having collected your mind within you, lead into the channel of breathing through which air reaches the heart and, together with this inhaled air, force your mind to descend into the heart and to remain there.... When your mind becomes firmly established in your heart, it must not remain there silent and idle, but it should constantly repeat the prayer: "Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me!"
Many principles of hesychastic prayer were introduced also through the anonymously-written monastic memoir The Way of a Pilgrim, which made its way from Mt Athos to Russia by way of Kazan. Therein a religious seeker learns from a monk about using a rosary or chaplet to guide and focus the mind on the Jesus Prayer (moving a bead between the fingers with each prayer sung, being instructed to say it 3000 times a day (just to start off).

This book was extremely popular in Russia after its publication in 1881, and was referenced directly by Ouspensky, (and some would say indirectly by Gurdjieff), comparing it to Bhakti Yoga in A New Model of the Universe.

These exercises exist in the Eastern Church, and in other forms they exist in Buddhist and Mohammadan schools. Some short prayer is usually taken and then repeated continuously, and this repeating is generally connected with breathing, listening to heart beats, and other things...

But this exercise... needs breathing and fasting, otherwise it very soon becomes too easy; it slips over things without touching them. I mean that it awakes attention only in the very beginning. SO I replayed the short prayer of seven words mentioned in the Philokalia by the Lord's Prayer... if [the prayer] begins to repeat by itself or even starts by itself and does not need any attention it means that it has passed into the moving part of the intellectual center. Then later it can pass into the moving center and then into the instinctive center; and then by interesting methods it is possible to make it pass into the emotional center. This is the aim of these exercises, not for keeping the attention only but for the study of centers and parts of centers....

... at a certain stage of work it is necessary to make the emotional center work more intensively, and this is one of the aims of this prayer of the mind... The prayer of the mind in the heart is described in the short book "the Way of the Pilgrim" -- in a fuller form it is described in the Philokalia, but I dot not know of any literature describing the other method of... repeating a longer prayer and making it pass from one center to another.
Ouspensky then recommended counting the prayer on rosary beads or chaplets. He also said that, once a prayer passed to the moving center and no longer required attention was brought consciously to attention, it could pass into the emotional and mental centers, and from there reach the higher emotional and higher mental center with sufficient training. On the latter, Ouspensky says fasting, prayer, and many types of burdens on the body (intentional suffering) are required.

I know I've devoted a ton of information disproportionately to this chapter, but for myself it was one of the most interesting chapters and was educational in terms of the religious milieu Ouspensky and Gurdjieff were working with in Russia in the early years of G's western mission. That and I generally enjoy reading about Eastern Orthodox monastic and ascetic traditions and practices. The recent interview on MindMatters of Gary Lachman also has many interesting things to say about this time period in Russia.

PART TWO is entitled "Gurdjieff's contemplative exercises," and chronologically goes through the periods of Gurdjieff's life in the west and the exercises and disciplines he either brought from elsewhere or developed for his pupils.

Chapter Four covers the exercises Gurdjieff either mentioned or taught during this time in Russia with Ouspensky. Those who read In Search of the Miraculous will have been acquainted with some of these exercises, if only in name.

It is here that Gurdjieff makes the first mention of the Ego Exercise in passing that was in practice in the monasteries of Mt Athos. It wasn't clear from the writing if this practice was taught to Ouspensky and the other early students or if it was only mentioned briefly to illustrate how a person's I of the moment may have different loci in or around the body.

One thing Gurdjieff stressed consistently throughout his teaching was the importance of relaxation, and to reduce the amount of energy expended passively through unnecessarily tense postures. Many of these types of exercises were performed with body scanning, where a person would try and sense a body party and relax it, then move to different body parts and relax those, etc.

These relaxation exercises ended up being a foundation for more complex movement activities that would occupy both the mind and body extensively. One pupil at this time mentioned: "The complexity of the Movements meant that the sensations and feelings could not be imaginary." This exercise would come back repeatedly in some guise, especially in the exercise The Preparation, and to a lesser extent in the Stop Exercise (which Azize defined more as a discipline since it was accomplished in groups and was more on the side of work "in life."

The Stop Exercise uses an announced pre-determined signal which causes everyone to freeze their posture for a certain amount of time. A pupil would attempt to remember themselves and track their feelings and thoughts while adopting the enforced frozen posture. One of the intended outcomes of this was to teach people the influence that postures can have on their way of thinking and feeling.

Gurdjieff evidently had hesitations about contemplative exercises for self-development, as he and Ouspensky both related this was an advanced technique that only those who were capable of self-remembering could undergo, and to jump ahead and meditate without remembering oneself simply led to increased imagination and departure from the real. This is what Gurdjieff admonished as a "philosophizing" active mentation: "You must not forget you are a body. You must always remember your body. You have not yet an "I," no "me." Do not forget it. Thus only can you have a future."

As alternatives to this Gurdjieff invited a person to wash their head in cold water, or hold out their arms for ten or twenty minutes while repeating "I am." Attention is directed toward the body, which is what adds "weight" to the mental states one may achieve (what a lot of us today would call "groundedness.") In an anecdote related by Orage, Gurdjieff said that in his travels in Tibet he "did not discover one single being with universal (i.e. balanced in all centers) development - only monsters."

Azize summarizes the reasons Gurdjieff initially eschewed contemplative exercises because chiefly (1) they were from the first three ways, and therefore required a withdrawal from the world Gurdjieff saw as counterproductive to growing a will in the world, (2) meditation without balance in the emotional and motor center only led to malformations due to a lack of control over imagination, (3) there is also a chance Gurdjieff wanted to keep his teaching strictly secular in nature and so break away from any specific exercises (eg, hesychasm) which may be linked to a concrete and accessible tradition that may cause an indiscriminate pupil to "mix-and-match" exercises like a dilettante instead of a serious student of the forth way and the exercises and disciplines Gurdjieff laid out purposefully for his student. I myself also offer a fourth possible reason, dovetailing with reason (3), which was that he was still attempting to study the effects of certain techniques and exercises on his students, and wished to eliminate as many uncontrolled variables as possible.

Whatever the reasons, they did not remain fixed over the duration of G's mission in the west, and things began to change especially in the forties.

Chapter Five covers Gurdjieff in the early thirties, the exercises and tasks used France at the Prieure, and how they made their way into Orage's techniques and groups as psychological exercises. The majority of these consisted as mental tasks to work the intellectual center. An example of this would be to substitute names for numbers and carry out mathematical operations (eg, "16 minus 9 equals 7" becomes "Lily-Marie minus Anna equals Nina"). The honing of thinking, perception, and memory were all learning outcomes. These types of exercises were a fascination for Orage, although Gurdjieff was angry at him for developing his own and teaching them to students (in spite of the fact that such activities were never hid from G).

Another example of an exercise Orage gave would have been to recite the numbers 1 to 100 ascending or descending, substituting numbers divisible by 3 for "John", and 4 for "Dick" and 5 for "Harry" respectively. Other exercises were mirror writing, reciting dictation, or reading or spelling passages backwards. Details of how the emotions were worked on were included in an essay called "The Control of Temper," which stressed the Gurdjieffian notion that all negative emotion is disease.; the recommended remedy for which was not to think or feel through the anger, but to just strictly SENSE it in the body.

One exercise which received a lot of attention in this section is "On Dying Daily." This was an exercises practiced before bed. You would establish a rhythmic count, and through this rhythm recall every single event that transpired to you today, like a reel of film unraveling. This in essence was the practice of Recapitulation, and the practice of making a habit of nightly review improve our memory of daily activities, which can be used to identify our patterns and habits. It also caused one to be more attentive during the day so as to recall information correctly later on. The name of the exercise "Dying Daily" was inspired by near-death experiences wherein people described that they would see their live flashing before their eyes or unraveling like film; the goal of the exercise was for one to become more familiar with what the critical moment of death would be like, so we could through preparation become more well prepared for it.

This chapter also described the publication of The Herald of the Coming Good, which received unambiguously negative reception, such that Gurdjieff rescinded its publication, ordered his pupils' students to destroy their copies, and delayed publication of the First Series of All and Everything. Herald was meant to stir up interest in Gurdjieff's upcoming series that was under preparation; but instead the opaque and seemingly monomaniacal writing and unguarded comments about using his students as "guinea pigs" for psychological experiments drove many students to leave the Gurdjieff groups. Gurdjieff's vow in 1912 never to use his techniques of hypnosis to fix people in The Work was also revealed.

In spite of this, Azize does derive information from G's more lucid passages in Herald, one piece of which was the phrase "transformed contemplation," which seemed to be chiefly concerned with the absorption of finer impressions (the one type of food of the three Gurdjieff talks about) we are capable of receiving:

[Transformed contemplation is] the confrontation of homogeneous impressions of all origins, which were already fixed, while continuous contact is maintained between their inner and outer centers.
Confrontation, or conflict between the centers, is Gurdjieff's definition of suffering. So the mixture and balance of impressions in conflict during the sustained awareness and contact of the three main lower centers (mental, emotional, physical) is the essence of transformed contemplation. This is corroborated by G's criticism of techniques for "self-training and self-development" that recommended "definite methods and processes, such as various physical exercises, exercises in meditation and concentration, breather exercises, various systems of diet." I suppose he saw all these as distractions from the chief focus which is self-remembering. And in a way I personally can see what he meant. All the things he criticized were chiefly about improving (using G's terminology) the quality of the lower hydrogens that food, air, and impressions could produce. But Gurdjieff's aim was the alchemy itself of producing the higher hydrogens, and it doesn't matter how high quality the fuel source is, if the machine parts (i.e. our thinking, feeling, and sensing faculties) aren't working properly together the energy just gets wasted.

Azize uses the above to infer that Herald discloses some belief of Gurdjieff's that contemplative exercises while self-remembering (using all the centers) would be necessary, although they would need to be adapted to each individual's functioning to instill the correct internal transformations in awareness.

Chapter Six covers information pertaining to exercises in Beezebub's Tales to his Grandson. In this section Azize discusses the guise that transformed contemplation takes in the First Series, the importance of air in exercises, and the Genuine Being Duty Exercise.

[The] substances needed both for coating and for perfecting the 'higher being-body,' that is, the 'kesdjan body,' enter into their common presence through their 'breathing,' and through certain what are called 'pores' of the skin.

As for the sacred cosmic substances required for the coating of the 'highest being-body,' which they call the 'soul,' these substances can be assimilated and correspondingly transformed and coated in them, just as in us, only through the process of what is called 'aiësiritoorassian contemplation,' actualized in their common presence with the conscious participation of their three independent spiritualized parts.
"Aiësiritoorassian" contemplation is never defined in B's Ts, and was absent form the 1931 version. Azize seems to think it is simply a placeholder for something qualitatively different from regular contemplation (as discussed with respect to transformed contemplation before).

Azize has five takeaways from the above section:
1. there are substances in air used to form a "higher body,"
2. the pores of the skin are one avenue for reception of these substances,
3. substances must not only be absorbed but transformed,
4. the transformation of substances is effected by "the cognized intention on the part of all their spiritualized independent parts," and
5. Aiësiritoorassian" contemplation is the means toward that end.

The assimilation of air was a point of importance that Gurdjieff mentioned in passing several times, with the characters receiving "second being foods" (i.e. air) from a kind of "monastic refectory." In Beelzebub's Tales it is mentioned that, in addition to the lungs, the pores of the skin also are a means by which air may be assimilated. With this information came high accolades for the practice of inducing sweating via saunas to clear the pores out. Technical information about substances in air aside, the suggestion to breathe together is given as a potential discipline and practice for those who understand what they are doing.

In ISOTM Gurdjieff says to Ouspensky,
"But on the fourth way knowledge is still more exact and perfect. A man who follows the fourth way knows quite definitely what substances he needs for his aims and he knows that these substances can be produced within the body by a month of physical suffering, by a week of emotional strain, or by a day of mental exercises — and also, that they can be introduced into the organism from without if it is known how to do it. And so, instead of spending a whole day in exercises like the yogi, a week in prayer like the monk, or a month in self-torture like the fakir, he simply prepares and swallows a little pill which contains all the substances he wants and, in this way, without loss of time, he obtains the required results.
The exercises in which Gurdjieff teaches the proper assimilation of air are in a roundabout way contrasted here with the types of breathing techniques popular in ashrams and other spiritual schools Gurdjieff would have been acquainted with in his travels: where a mechanical technique is taught to the moving center on how to breathe. Contrasting this Gurdjieff emphasizes that self-remembering and having one's centers functioning in unison with a purposeful attention is the only way to make proper use of the air we breathe for the aforementioned necessary transformations. Azize connects this type of practice to various types of contemplative exercises discussed further on in the book (eg, the First Assisting Exercise).

The Genuine Being Duty Exercise is Azize's name for the advice given by Beelzebub to his grandson in Chapter 7 of Beelzebub's Tales, in response to Hassein's realization of the conscious labors carried out by multitudes of past beings and his concern over what his responsibility to existence was in light of benefiting from those actions. Beelzebub gives this advice:

At your age (i.e. level of development prior to having full responsibility), it is indispensable that every day when the sun rises, while watching the reflection of its splendor, you bring about a contact between your consciousness and the various unconscious parts of your common presence. Trying to make this state last, think and convince the un-conscious parts—as if they were conscious—that if they hinder your general functioning in the process of ordinary existence, then in the period of your responsible age they will not only be unable to enjoy the good that is proper to them, but also your whole presence, of which they are a part, will not be capable of becoming a good servant of our Common Endless Creator, and will thus be unable to pay honorably for your arising and existence.
This practice of getting in touch with your unconscious parts in a state of repose and persuade them to cooperate with the greater whole of you is the first truly contemplative exercise Gurdjieff spells out for his students. It bears resemblances to other exercises such as "Make Strong! Not Easy Thing" later on. In terms of other modern practices it bears some resemblance to family systems therapy and (to a lesser extent) self-spirit release therapy.

In Azize's words, "[the] exercise is no mere afterthought. It is deceptively simple, for it assumes that the unconscious apparatus (including the body) is capable of entering into a quasi-conscious relationship with the mind, and, in some fashion, understanding concepts such as "good,"... and being able to pay for one's birth and existence.... Gurdjieff returned to this type of exercise... when a member of one of his groups said that she wished to be liberated from a "haunting image":

Seated, calm, you relax carefully. Then, as if you were in front of an unknown person, you begin to influence yourself through suggestion. With your consciousness you explain to your subconsciousness that all of this is slavery and that it is stupid to be dependent on whoever it may be. Explain it to yourself as to someone else. One time, ten times, you explain it to yourself. And, in fact, you can take in these things like someone to whom one explains the same thing ten times, because your individuality and your body are exactly like you and other person. For you, your body is like a stranger..."
The Sixth Chapter focuses entirely on The Soil Preparing Exercise from the Third Series. Azize opens the chapter discussing the publication of the Third Series: Life is Only Real Then, When I Am. Published in 1975, after Gurdjieff last put pen to paper on it in 1935, it ends in mid-sentence in spite of being intended to fill four books. Since Gurdjieff lost Orange's assistance after dismissing him from his school he had to be less ambitious. Many think the cliff-hanger it was left on, just prior to giving a preamble for a contemplative exercise, was intentional, and demanded that people dig further for the exercises either in his work or receive the teaching specifically orally. It was reported that the talks recorded by Gurdjieff were, according to some witnesses there, not conducted as written, which suggests they too were serving another purpose over and above simply recording events.

Chapter Seven discusses the Soil Preparing Exercise, which was given in the third talk:

First, all one's attention must be divided approximately into three equal parts; each of these parts must be concentrated on one of the three fingers of the right or the left hand, for instance the forefinger, the third and the fourth, constating in one finger—the result proceeding in it of the organic process called "sensing," in another—the result of the process called "feeling," and with the third—making any rhythmical movement and at the same time automatically conducting with the flowing of mental association a sequential or varied manner of counting.... In order to explain to you this very important question, the difference between "sensing" and "feeling," I shall give you a corresponding definition.

A man "feels"—when what are called the "initiative factors" issue from one of the dispersed localizations of his common presence which in contemporary science are called the "sympathetic nerve nodes," the chief agglomeration of which is known by the name of "solar plexus" and the whole totality of which functioning, in the terminology long ago established by me, is called the "feeling center"; and he "senses"— when the basis of his "initiative factors" is the totality of what are called "the motor nerve nodes" of the spinal and partly of the head brain, which is called according to this terminology of mine the "moving center."

Just this difference in the nature of these two unknown-to-you independent sources constitutes the difference in functions which you do not distinguish.

For this fourth preparatory exercise explained by me today, first of all it is necessary to learn with what exists in you now only as a substitute, so to say "fulfilling the obligation" of what should, in real man, be "self-willed attention" and in you is merely a "self-tenseness," simultaneously to observe three heterogeneous results proceeding in you, each coming from different sources of the general functioning of your whole presence: namely, one part of this attention of yours should be occupied with the constatation of the proceeding-in-one-finger process of "sensing," another with the constatation of the proceeding in-another-finger process of "feeling," and the third part should follow the counting of the automatic movement of the third finger.

As only an all-round understanding of the sense and significance of this fourth—and for you, first—exercise, as well as the ability to carry it out, will perforce make it easier for you to cognize the sense and significance, as well as the carrying out, of all the subsequent exercises which are required for the acquisition of one's own individuality, I therefore advise you, so to say, to "mobilize" all your forces and possibilities, in order that you should "BE ABLE" for a definite time not to be lazy and at the same time to be, in relation to yourself, that is to say, to your weaknesses, quite merciless, because upon this first exercise depends your whole subsequent normal life, and all your future possibilities, inherent only in man, according to law.
The goal of the soil-preparing exercises is seemingly to teach one to distinguish the functioning of the 3 different centers, and to attempt to become aware of all three simultaneous "heterogenous" functions in oneself. With reference to the counting portion Azize links this portion of the exercise back to Gurdjieff's associate Pogosian from Meetings with Remarkable Men, who, when idle, would often count with his hands or fingers or do some kind of exercise, believing that no conscious work of any kind is wasted. The counting also bears similarities to hesychastic prayer using a chaplet from The Way of a Pilgrim, where the narrator was instructed to pray three thousand times a day (working up to twelve thousand). Gurdjieff himself gave his students in his women's group The Rope chaplets for "special sensing exercises," citing their historical use among many cultures Gurdjieff was acquainted with to train one's concentration.

Chapter Eight is about what was called the First Assisting Exercise in the fifth talk of the Third Series, dated to 1930.

In this talk, after Gurdjieff makes positive reference to one's human capacity for "self-deceptive imaginativeness" to inculcate "in his subconsciousness some reasonable indication grasped by his ordinary consciousness and not contradictory to his instinct." Azize seems to tie this role that imaginative visualization may play in developing an actual sensitivity to something real and not at all imaginative to one of Gurdjieff's motivations for withholding a number of these types of exercises: because very often imagination is uncontrolled and subject to all kinds of self-deception and self-hypnosis and can lead people into deeper blink alleys than their ordinary sleep.

For the correct understanding of the significance of this first assisting exercise, it is first of all necessary to know that when a normal man, that is, a man who already has his real I, his will, and all the other properties of a real man, pronounces aloud or to himself the words " I am," then there always proceeds in him, in his, as it is called, "solar plexus," a so to say "reverberation," that is, something like a vibration, a feeling, or something of the sort.

This kind of reverberation can proceed also in other parts of his body in general, but only on the condition that, when pronouncing these words, his attention is intentionally concentrated on them.

If the ordinary man, not having as yet in himself data for the natural reverberation but knowing of the existence of this fact, will, with conscious striving for the formation in himself of the genuine data which should be in the common presence of a real man, correctly and frequently pronounce these same and for him as yet empty words, and will imagine that this same reverberation proceeds in him, he may thereby ultimately through frequent repetition gradually acquire in himself a so to say theoretical "beginning" for the possibility of a real practical forming in himself of these data.

He who is exercising himself with this must at the beginning, when pronouncing the words "I am," imagine that this same reverberation is already proceeding in his solar plexus.

Here, by the way, it is curious to notice that as a result of the intentional concentration of this reverberation on any part of his body, a man can stop any disharmony which has arisen in this said part of the body, that is to say, he can for example cure his headache by concentrating the reverberation on that part of the head where he has the sensation of pain. At the beginning it is necessary to pronounce the words "I am" very often and to try always not to forget to have the said reverberation in one's solar plexus. Without this even if only imagined experiencing of the reverberation, the pronouncing aloud or to oneself of the words "I am" will have no significance at all. The result of the pronouncing of them without this reverberation will be the same as that which is obtained from the automatic associative mentation of man, namely, an increase of that in the atmosphere of our planet from our perception of which, and from its blending with our second food, there arises in us an irresistible urge to destroy the various tempos of our ordinary life somehow established through centuries.

This second exercise, as I have already said, is only preparatory; and when you have acquired the knack, as it were, of experiencing this process imagined in yourself, only then will I give you further definite real indications for the actualization in yourself of real results. ....

At first it is necessary to acquire only, so to say, the "taste" of these impulses which you have not as yet in you, and which for the present you may designate merely by the words "I am," "I can," "I wish."

In concluding my elucidations of this assisting exercise, I will once more repeat, but in another formulation, what I have already said. If "I am," only then "I can"; if "I can," only then do I deserve and have the objective right to wish.

Without the ability to "can" there is no possibility of having anything; no, nor the right to it.

First we must assimilate these expressions as external designations of these impulses in order ultimately to have the impulses themselves. If you several times experience merely the sensation of what I have just called the "taste" of these impulses sacred for man, you will then already be indeed fortunate, because you will then feel the reality of the possibility of sometime acquiring in your presence data for these real Divine impulses proper only to man.
I highlighted the bolded comment just to observe that at the forefront of even an exercise in visualization there is an imperative to embody, and concentrate mentally one's attention and intention, without which the exercise has "no significance."

Azize reminds the reader that this was merely a preparatory exercise, the training of sufficient competency in which laid the groundwork for other activities for achieving "more definite results," i.e. for producing the real impulses "I can" and "I wish."

Azize discusses the process further on, linking "divine impulse" to a form of dialogical mysticism (a form of mysticism in which one experiences the divine but loses no corresponding sense of self). Even when one catches an experience of the divine in the phrase "I am" it is contextualized within a body, although one which has been trained to operate at a level where communication with the parts of us which are "perpetually turned towards the divine" is possible.

Chapter Nine covers the Second Assisting Exercise. This is an exercise given in the fifth talk of the Third Series. One of the chief aims of this exercise was in fact to still the automatic, mechanical thinking part of the mind (i.e. the formatory apparatus) through focusing on the effects of breathing while self-remembering. Azize discusses the word "constatation," and the important of the specificity of its use in Gurdjieff's vocabulary (meaning "to verify").

Well then, I am now sitting among you, as you see, and although I am looking at Mr. L. yet I am intentionally directing all my attention, which you are not able to see, on my foot, and consequently any manifestation Mr. L. produces within my field of vision I see only automatically—my attention, which at the present moment is one whole, being in another place.

This whole attention of mine, I now intentionally divide into two equal parts. The first half I consciously direct to the uninterrupted constatation and continuous sensing of the process proceeding in me of my breathing. By means of this part of my attention I definitely feel that something takes place in me with the air I breathe.

I first clearly feel that, when I breathe in the air, the greater part, passing through my lungs, goes out again, and the lesser part remains and as it were settles there, and then I feel that this settled part is gradually penetrating inward and is as it were spreading through my whole organism.

In consequence of the fact that only a part of my attention is occupied with the observation of the process of breathing proceeding in me, all the mental, feeling and reflex associations automatically flowing in my common presence still continue to be noticed by the free part of my attention, and hinder that first part of my attention intentionally directed upon a definite object, but already to a much lesser extent.

Now I direct the second half of my attention to my head brain for the purpose of observing and possibly constating any process proceeding in it.

And already I am beginning to feel in it, from the totality of automatically flowing associations, the arising of something very fine, almost imperceptible to me.

I do not know just what this is nor do I wish to know, but I definitely constate, feel and sense that this is some definite "something" arising from the process automatically proceeding in my head brain of associations of previously consciously perceived impressions.

While this second half of my attention is occupied with the aforesaid, the first half continues all the time uninterruptedly to watch, with so to say "concentrated interest," the result proceeding from the process of my breathing.

I now consciously direct this second half of my attention and, uninterruptedly "remembering the whole of myself," I aid this something arising in my head brain to flow directly into my solar plexus. I feel how it flows. I no longer notice any automatic associations proceeding in me.
Azize notes that, while one may notice the effects of the air developing in oneself, they accumulate in the head and upon self-remembering, develop and in doing so move down to the solar plexus. This is in line with the development of hydrogens Gurdjieff has expounded upon in detail. The act of self-remembering (Do 48 i.e. impressions) stimulates the Mi 48 (the highest product of air with no shock, experienced as thinking) to develop to Fa 24 and then Sol 12, which is the fuel of the higher emotional center. From this perspective it seems like the purpose of the Second Assisting Exercise is to teach one to sense the effects of self-remembering one one's breathing, which has been called the First Conscious Shock.

Azize writes in details about potential antecedents to this exercise in the Philokalia. He links this to the hesychastic practice The Prayer of the Heart, in Nicephorus' text On Sobriety. Their main overlaps are (1) involve attention on breathing (2) with attention to the feeling of how the air is retained; (3) the intellect is focused and the mind is concentrated on the breast.

On Azize's website he quotes Nicephorus here:

You know that our breathing is the inhaling and exhaling of air. The organ which serves for this is the lungs which lie round the heart, so that the air passing through them thereby envelops the heart. Thus breathing is a natural way to the heart. And so, having collected your mind within you, lead it into the channel of breathing through which air reaches the heart and, together with this inhaled air, force your mind to descend into the heart and to remain there. … when your mind becomes firmly established in the heart, it must not remain there silent and idle, but it should constantly repeat the prayer: “Lord, Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy upon me!” and never cease.

(Azize's note: for those who find the above too difficult Nicephorus recommends the following:)

You know that in every man inner talking is in the breast … Thus, having banished very thought from this inner talking (for you can do this if you want to), give it the following short prayer: “Lord, Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy upon me!” – and force it, instead of all other thought, to have only this one constant cry within. If you continue to do this constantly, with your whole attention, then in time this will open for you the way to the heart which I have described.
It seems like the first exercise has most in common with the Second Assisting Exercise and the second most in common with the First. Azize's thesis that the Christian monastic tradition has had a deep influence on Fourth Way teaching becomes more compelling in this light.

Chapter Ten covers exercises introduced by Gurdjieff in the late 30's, and also reviews a number of the conditions he was working under. Azize characterized it as a period of diminished public profile and lack or higher organization direction.

The first exercise mentioned was a phrase to a student of his, who was trying to quit smoking: "I wish the result of this, my suffering, to be my own, for Being." This is in the vein of the conviction that no conscious effort is wasted, and with the right intention can even direct these energies and friction more constructively toward increasing being, or awareness.

The second exercise in this chapter was given to a pupil who in distress confided that she had no energy to carry out an aim. The instructions provided by Gurdjieff according to Azize, appear to be the first recorded method of Transformed Contemplation (excluding the Genuine Being Duty Exercise, which was only conveyed literarily). The gist of the instruction was to sit for an hour alone, relaxing all muscles. Loose mental associations are permitted to flow but must not be identified with (remembering oneself). The practitioner speaks to these associations, saying "If you will let me do my business now, I will later grant you your wishes." At the end of the hour you write your aim down in paper, and keep it on your person for the rest of the day, making that sheet of paper your God. Throughout the rest of the day you remove it and read it whenever you have a spare moment, so that eventually the written words "become a part of you". This has a lot of overlap with the Genuine Being Duty Exercise, and the last portion about allowing the words to become part of you relates to the First Assisting Exercise and Jesus Prayer, where one assimilates information in one center and repeats it such that it can pass on to another center, and then another.

The third exercise was more exemplary, talking about "the two parts of air": the evolving and the involving part. The evolving was the physical, "planetary" part of air, and the involving was the property which originates from the absolute, and which can be used to grow higher bodies but which cannot be utilized unless one self-remembers. The practitioner either in the quiet or about their day in life attempts to take full cognizance of their "insignificance" and mortality, and also that of their neighbors; the goal is to arouse compassion and Christian pity. This state was contrasted with the everyday state, most of which was "suffering in vain" (i.e. in self-importance, identification, consideration, etc.) This practice of minding our mortality was to counteract this and over time develop an unconscious overcoming of this negative habit of thought:

By continually doing this exercise, real faith will arise in some part and spread to other parts. Then already, man will be happy because from his faith, objective hope will arise, hope of a basis for continuation
I find this reference to the Theological Virtues (Faith, Hope, and Love) to be fascinating, especially since Gurdjieff was always very particular about "Love," and how heavily polluted a concept it is in everyday word use, and needing to be something that is cultivated carefully with growth in knowledge and being. The structure of the phrase suggests that other virtues can be cultivated the same way. But why does this connect to assimilating a special part of air? My own hypothesis was that it may have to do with the hydrogen table, and how the highest part of air (La 6) functions as a "carbon or active force" (i.e. it is 2 octaves up from the "nitrogen or passive force" H24 of the instinctive center or negative emotions and can raise the vibration of one of them 1 octave to H12 of the higher emotional center as the "oxygen or reconciling/neutralizing force"). With respect to this, this "two parts to air exercise" almost seems like it is training wheels attempting to train people to facilitate the Second Conscious Shock: the transmutation of negative emotions into positive emotions. Who knows? This chemical factory concept is certainly something Gurdjieff took for granted as fact and it would have informed his understanding of the exercises, especially Transformed Contemplation, which is all about assimilating and transforming substances. Azize himself does not venture too much into this type of technical theorizing though.

The fourth exercise given in the chapter was "Make Strong! Not Easy Thing." from a manuscript recorded in 1939. To me this simply seems like another implementation of the First Assisting Exercise. After relaxing for fifteen minutes ("breaking the tempo of life") one practices the I Am Exercise, affirming with all 3 centers ("Make strong! Not easy thing"). Gurdjieff mentions affirming that we keep the extra substances in the air (the involving part) through using a property in the blood (animal magnetism?), without which we must work one month for a result, and that we must remember ourselves throughout this or the substances obtained evaporate and have no use. The "one month" required when one does not know what one is doing seems to hearken back to Gurdjieff's store of the Fakir, who would perform a certain act for a month to obtain a result, versus a yogi who could accomplish the preparation for obtaining results in a day. As per usual, Gurdjieff never gives instructions on how to breathe, saying the breath will change naturally if the right intention and internal posture is adopted. What was unique about this exercise vs the First Assisting Exercise was the invitation to imagine the breath entering the body and moving to a corresponding location based on the state of the individual. For this exercise no conscious direction is given to the product of the breath (Gurdjieff provides instruction on this in later exercises).

The chapter concludes with a review of Gurdjieff's activities in the late 30's, and how his car accident forced him to reconsider numerous things, one of which (Azize surmises) that the methods of working totally in the business of life and not in the quiet were insufficient for western individuals. Orage's aptitude for the exercises at the Prieure in France and encouragement form Gurdjieff to develop psychological exercises may have spurred him to introduce contemplative exercises into his teaching methods. In spite of his critiques of meditation in Herald of the Coming Good he did apparently see value in exercises of transformed contemplation. In this later milieu Gurdjieff penned the chapters of Life is Real in which he describes the Soil Preparing Exercise and the First and Second Assisting Exercises, which taught the functioning of centers, the affirming of I AM in the body, and the moving of substances of the air octave around the body as they developed. The "Make Strong!" Exercise combined all of these, adding the intent and wish to keep the substances acquired for coating higher being bodies.

Chapter Eleven discuses Gurdjief exercises from the Transcripts of 1941 - 1946. In this period Gurdjieff had several groups which ran at different days of the week at different levels of advancement. Across the board both contemplative exercises and movements were used to train people. Both objective (i.e. suitable for everyone) and subjective (i.e. suitable for one person due to certain idiosyncratic characteristics) were employed. When a women was given a counting exercise (similar to the Soil Preparing Exercise), Gurdjieff advised that something else be tried, since it did not correspond to her subjectivity. The emphasis on relaxing the muscles of the body before a serious exercise continues to be pervasive as part of the focus on conserving one's energy and on also offering foundational bodily awareness.

One subjective exercise Gurdjieff gave to a woman who wanted to experience emotions more. Gurdjieff advised that she collect herself and focus her attention on the four points that her limbs connected to her torso, and then engaging the I AM exercise. Because this exercise was given to her and no one else and is subjective it may be of limited use to other people.

An exercise for sensing I AM in the body more involved sensing sensation in both one's arm and the solar plexus at the same time while the head concentrates and observes what is going on while saying "I am". Azize comments the exercise seems to train an individual towards experiencing the sensation of "I am" anywhere in the body. A reference to an Athonite exercise from earlier in the book is made.

One objective exercise Azize devotes a lot of time to discussing is The Atmosphere Exercise. After a period of relaxation and "quieting your associations" you visualize to yourself that you are surrounded by an atmosphere 1-1.5m in radius, which produces waves in response to associations and moves in the direction of your thoughts. You attempt to concentrate in such a way that the atmosphere contracts closer to your body. When the waves are quiet and thought is more still, you draw the atmosphere further into yourself. One one has succeeded at this one should feel in a good state, and the sensation of "I am" is far stronger. When a practitioner said to Gurdjieff the exercise strengthened "I am" but only temporarily, and afterwards it diminished. To this Gurdjieff responded:

When you are in the state of remembering - half of your attention must be concentration on the "I am" and the other half must control the keeping of the state. Your head plays the role of policeman. It watches for you to guard your state. "I am" with the other half of the attention.... [while your thought] goes into another country. Your atmosphere - your imagination leaves you, and you remain with your automatic attention. Done in this way it is normal that it diminishes. One must do thousands and thousands of times what I tell you.... First of all get used to staying a long time in a collected state.
Azize comments this is the first instance in which a personal atmosphere is mentioned, and becomes more important in later exercises, and that the exercise must be practiced many times with full attention or the results are "less than useless." When one student told Gurdjieff that s/he became intoxicated by the results, he said that she could not expect results yet; all she could do was play the exercise, like someone practicing the piano... such works preparation for a future where the QUALITY of work changes and you become a pianist.

Other comments are made about other accounts of the "I Am" exercises various other students have recorded. One record contained a reference to Jeanne de Salzmann, who said that one must do the work in a special state of attention and self-awareness (such as that the "I Am" exercise provides), before it can be successful in everyday social life. This is in agreement with Azize's own speculations about Gurdjieff's motivations for introducing more contemplative exercises: namely that the conditions of ordinary life can often be too difficult for some to generate the precise stresses and internal composure simultaneously for crystallization, the formation of higher hydrogens, etc.

Filling Up Exercise. After relaxing enough, the "I am" exercise was done. If one has practiced it enough the sense of "I Am" is distinct and one can sense a reverberation of sorts. This moves around like an echo back and forth between the legs, arms, thorax, abdomen, and finally once in the head. Someone who began to experience nervous contractions in this exercise was advised by Gurdjieff to establish a clearer bodily rhythm, and breathe more steadily and regularly. As with the soil preparing exercise, rhythm of a sort within the body seems to play a role, and is something a visualized rhythm could become entrained to.

On exercise that emphasizes a more social dimension was the Web Exercise. This was a discipline done in groups and depends on an understanding of atmosphere once again. The overlap of atmospheres and their waves in people with a common aim aids an amplifies a practice and its results. Also emphasized is the importance of a common aim or WISH that animates the group and forms the focus of group efforts.
In the section called "The Exercise of IAM, breathing, and external considering" several anecdotes of teachable moments between Gurdjieff and his students working group are shared. In one anecdote it is even suggested that self-remembering with family may positively influence them. The idea of attempting to change others is extremely rare in Gurdjieff that it was worth making a note of. At the forefront of all work in a social setting with some people who are not doing the work was the importance of remembering oneself and developing an attitude of love and hope in one's interactions with them.

Some stoic philosophy has made it into Gurdjieff, in the guise of what he called "Active Reasoning." The most basic example given is for dealing with negative emotions. Eg, someone calls you a fool. Is this individual wise? If not why care if he called you a fool since it's not true. On the other hand if he is wise, and you were acting a fool, you should be thanking them for helping you along to fulfilling your aim. Some of this was explained alongside the more subconscious forms of suggestion (as in the Genuine Being Duty Exercise) one was to give and explain to oneself, "as if to a stranger."

The psychic body... has other needs, other aspirations, other desires. It belongs to a different world, it is of a different nature. There is a conflict between these two bodies - one wishes, the other does not. It is a struggle which one must reinforce voluntarily by our work, by our will. It is in this fight which exists naturally, which is the specific state of man, which we must use to create a third thing, a third state different from the other two, which is the Master... The body is an animal, the psyche is a child. One must educate the one and the other.
This itself shares a lot of similarities with the Orthodox monastic tradition.

Latter sections includes other exercises, one of which was reminiscent of the exercise in Chapter 10 for will and energy, and also which was a counting exercise similar to one made my Orage. Counting to fifty then back seven times, after which one relaxes and state, "I am, I wish to be, I can be." I think part of this exercise was to show pupils how hard it was to remember oneself long enough to count up and down seven times for a very long period... 😝

{To be continued.}
 

whitecoast

The Living Force
FOTCM Member
PART THREE discusses a number of Gurdjieff exercises which have reached the record through his pupils.

Chapter Twelve is devoted to Jeanne de Salzmann and some of the exercises attributed either to her oral or written teachings. Azize is not without his criticisms, although admits that to do the topic de Salzmann's legacy would take a volume unto itself.

Azize discusses some of the references to de Salzmann's posthumously published The Reality of Being, although finds it hard to see clear instructions, as the editing of the notes that composed the publication are extremely vague. Some of the exercises can appear to refer to The Preparation, or others to some body scan exercises to differentiate the function of centers. It seems that one must already be acquainted with the nature of some of the Gurdjieff exercises for some of the blanks to be filled in.

One interesting section was the discussion of the "I, Me" exercise. This was an exercise that seemingly involved grasping a "substance of I" crystallized somewhere within one's body or atmosphere, and then melting it down and redistributing it throughout the body, so the I was no longer localized to one place. Azize (imo rightly) says that one should be cautious about attributing this to Gurdjieff, since Gurdjieff has never spoken about a substance of I before.

This section was, I thought, worth quoting in full:
De Salzmann mentions "pathways and centers of gravity particular to [the astral body]." ...Peter Schaeffer (1910-1995) asked about an exercises, something "turning up" in his limbs [probably with the breath] and being "exhausted." Gurdjieff replied that the firs thing was the sensation, and then, after that, the "way by which you pour out." Gurdjieff spoke of a a flowing through the lungs, on either side of the navel, then to "all the sphere of the sexual organs," and back to the solar plexus. He also showed a pathway along the back of the head. This may well be what Schaeffer was referring to in his essay "The Old Man and his Movements" when he remembered "the spiral that he used to draw for us to show us where the straight lines of our evolution would begin to turn." Gurdjieff later said:

"Tomorrow you shall do this exercise to the end. Gradually as you have need of it, you shall use this path.... It is important to know these paths. Later we shall speak of stations and forks. From here to there, there are three stations. From each station, one must go in one direction and not another. If you go to the left instead of going to the right, you can crush a dog or breathe the stink of a sewer."
So Gurdjieff seemed aware of the nadis or merideans from Indian and Chinese schools, relating to how the breath may be used to maneuver chi or electricity in the body to effect certain changes and improvements in health (when done properly of course).

At least we know, from the brilliantly colored manuscripts on the holy Mount Athos, that Eastern Orthodoxy worked with something closely related to the cakra system.... Here I rely on research by my doctoral student the late John Henshaw on Mss in the Greek Orthodox monasteries of the Holy Mount Athos.
I found the above to be incredibly intriguing. Unfortunately when Azize tried to get more information his lead with Proffesor Trompf to learn more about this system turned up a dead end, or at least a disinclination to disclose. If this knowledge is known to the Athonite Monastic Order it is closely guarded. Almost makes me want to study acupuncture and the Chinese meridian systems... moving on.

Another topic Azize brought up surrounds the continuity and discontinuity of Gurdjieff's work in Jeanne de Salzmann's. De Salzmann forbade people to do the Gurdjieff exercises he laid out in Series Three, edited Beelzebub's Tales to be easier to digest, and developed a practice called "sitting," which has influences of Krishnamurti, Roshi Kobori, and Durckheim. In these changes the emphasis was less on intentional suffering and efforts but more on "letting go" and making oneself "available" to a new sensation of the self in the quiet. Commentators on the development of the New Work of De Salzmann have mentioned that the teaching had seemed to move toward a passive voice. Individuals did not work - they were "worked upon." They did not wake up - they were "awoken." Azize contends strongly that De Salzmanns' departures are moreso also complicated by the fact that she was propped up by some writers as being the authoritative Gurdjieff work. From my own perspective it would seem like a greater service that what is Gurdjieff's was kept as Gurdjieff's, and what de Salzmann developed after networking more with others as her own, rather than discontinuing some of G's own work.

Chapter Thirteen is devoted to the Four Ideals Exercise, which is covered in whole or in part by various followers of Gurdjieff. This was a very peculiar exercise but at the same time one that seems thoroughly Gurdjieffian in its conceptualization. This was taught to George Adie by Gurdjieff in 1948 as a subjective exercise.

The framework for the exercise postulates that successful holy individuals have coated an astral body and so dwell above the atmosphere of the planet as ideals. Numerous times before Gurdjieff makes reference to the fact that praying to God can be useless because God is too remote for our prayers (which Gurdjieff qualifies as substances of a refined and high nature) to reach. Instead it is better to pray toward a person who was successful as an ideal toward which you may reach. Prayers may reach Gurdjieff, who may pray to a particular saint, which may pray to an apostle, which then prays to Jesus, who then can reach God. To Gurdjieff, prayers to ideals (in his use of the word, Jesus, Mohammed, Buddha, and Lama) often may not reach the ideal if they are not sufficiently high in vibration and similar to the ideal himself. In such a case these high (but not high enough) vibrations move toward the ideal, fail to reach it, and so simply remain there. Beneath each ideal far off is thus a reservoir of fine substances of people whose prayers have attempted to reach the ideal, lost.

The purpose of the four ideals exercise is to attempt to tap into these reservoirs of high vibrations sent by the faithful to the ideal for one's own use (which in G's understanding would otherwise just be wasted). One then digests these substances in a collected state and allows the benefits to take root. During a meditative state one collects oneself, then visualizes a thin tube in each extremity that connect to a location above the atmosphere of Mecca, Jerusalem, India, and Tibet. One breathes air in consciously visualizing or feeling the collection of these substances. These substances mix then with the air and higher hydrogens within the body, and then get distributed to other parts of the body. The practitioner then sits in a collected state with these intermixed and distributed substances. Getting up or doing too much activity disturbs the body's atmosphere and can cause the results to evaporate, leak, or otherwise be wasted.

De Salzmann's Reality of Being also describes this exercise in a very broad and general way. Again like many Transformed Contemplation exercises there is a use of controlled imagination to facilitate certain effects on the psyche. A shorter version of this exercise was given by Gurdjieff during the Christmas season of 1948, to Louse March:

After the dinner, around midnight, Gurdjieff gives advice. "I wish give real Christmas present. Imagine Christ. Somewhere in space is." Mr Gurdjieff forms and oval with both his hands. "Make contact, but to outside, periphery. Draw from there, draw in, I. Settle in you, Am. Do every day. Wish to become Christ. Become. Be."
Benson was given this exercise at the Prieure in France (only to do such an activity at a Church to "steal" the prayers of people, because although they go to Christ they do not reach him, so it is better that someone else do something with them, thus Gurdjieff considered this "honest" stealing since the debt is being repaid by working in ways many of the sleeping faithful cannot.

Of all the exercises in the book the Four Ideals seems the one most reliant in Gurdjieff's materialistic cosmology. As it is described I think it is of limited use to modern people, or those more informed by the C's own perspective. According to the Cassiopaeans there was benefit in gaining knowledge of one's ancestors, or people in the past who have acted immaculately, whom one may reach by refining one's knowledge and awareness and intentions in a way that resonates with them. Here the emphasis is on gaining knowledge and cultivating an awareness and action that resonates more strongly with people of the past. Nothing as mechanical as drawing hydrogens from the location beneath their astral body in space is ever required. What i also find interesting about this is that it was in at least one instance referred to as a subjective exercise (i.e. not for everyone). If these things do not exist in an objective way it's probably not a good idea to visualize them, since in Gurdjieff's own talk about the First Assisting Exercise it was important for even imagination (if it was to be constructive) to correspond to something real. In what way this reservoir of hydrogens has any real existence (let alone above Jerusalem or Mecca) it's hard to say.

Another exercise mentioned in this chapter was instruction written down in Hulme's Undiscovered Country, which seemed to be about learning to pray to people in the afterlife (although one could suppose you may send energies to people in this life as well):

He went to his trunk, took from it a post-card sized photograph of a strong-faced old lady in a black head shawl and cape... "My mother," he said. He then gave me an exercise, totally different from any previous instruction yet including steps fro many of the earlier "spiritual" disciplines. I must always be alone in a room when I perform it, alone with two empty chairs in front of me, on which I was to see "with inner eye" his mother and my mother sitting side by side. Step by step, he went through the instruction which, I gathered, might enable me to draw to myself a force to send to them -- a kind of "help" for his mother and mine. Then he called Madame S., his oldest and most trusted Russian assistant, told her to go over it once again, step by step with me, and abruptly left the room.
Chapter Fourteen covers where were described by Azize as the Lord Have Mercy Exercises. This chapter outlines a series of exercises mentioned at various times by pupils of Gurdjieff, which involve the use of the Christian prayer. Azize points out that, while Gurdjieff had strong views about whether God could be contact directly through prayer, he also seemed to acknowledge that prayer itself can have an effect on the psyche of the one who practices it. This practice was encouraged in the 1950 edition of Beelzebub's Tales, (the fuller version: "Holy God, Holy Firm, Holy Immortal have mercy on us"), by Mme De Salzmann, the Adies, and others. Very often these are combined with body scan exercises, for example in Reality of Being one senses each body party one by one, saying "I... am" or alternatively "Lord... have mercy." Reality of Being combines the conscious blending of substances in the arms with the sex organs and redistributing it throughout the body as in the Four Ideals exercise, while in the exercise given by the Adies explicit instructions on blending were not explicit. Consistent with the both of them was to repeat sensing different areas, up to three times, with finer and finer awareness over time. Throughout this exercise one moves away from the use of the intellectual center and instead attempting to come to a pure sensation of the body, without words. One may not, according to George Adie, even say the words silently to oneself, and instead be satisfied with the echo of the words, or the concept or feeling of the prayer itself behind the words of the prayer. One remains in the final state of heightened sensation and awareness for at least 7 minutes (again perhaps to assimilate the finer hydrogens assimilated through the breath), collecting themselves before setting a plan and intention for the day.

Azize's thesis that many of Gurdjieff's practices were Athonite in origin finds a lot of fertile ground in tracing the potential origin of these exercises. In particular, the practices of Nicephorus the Solitary are very similar when one simply substitutes "Lord have mercy" with "I am," which is a substitution De Salzmann was explicit about. Ouspensky noted that in Russia Gurdjieff noted that "Holy God, Holy Firm, Holy Immortal" was a reference to the two forms of the absolute (all and nothing) and the ray of creation which existed between them. Azize points out that this likely means the Orthodox would have been acquainted with the origin of Gurdjieff's system, even if they themselves may not have been the source. In either case it points toward a more western origin of Gurdjieff's thought than a monastery in Asia.

Chapter Fifteen describes what was was known as the Color Spectrum Exercise. Precedence for this exercise is hinted at in the very end of the Third Series, which ends with a vivid description of a series of colored electrical lamps in a chaotic sea at night, undulating with the waves, with bits of light hitting one another and sometimes missing due to the external chaos. Between this and his mentor George Adie's color spectrum exercise (which he claims to have received from Gurdjieff) Azize connects these lamps with the functioning of centers, and the color or flavor as imparting some quality to the atmosphere of an individual. People in modern new-age circles would be very familiar with the chakra system and people's auras bearing certain colors and reflecting certain qualities.

Adie taught the exercise over two sessions, which consisted of two parts each. In the first part an individual engages in a body scan exercise, feeling things in a particular order. One starts with the body as a whole, then moves from the head downwards to the arms, thorax, etc, eventually ending on the sex organs. One ADDS the sensation in each step to one's total awareness, so by the end of the exercise one has a total bodily awareness. One then reverses the order, going backwards until ending up at the start.

The second part of the exercise involves seeing next the body as a whole suffused with white light, and then one proceeds from the top down (in the order described above), visualizing each group with a color of a descending frequency. Head/face/neck is violet, the arms indigo... eventually ended up with the the sex organs as red. One then at the end views the whole body as composed of white light. One then reverses the order, going backwards until ending up at the start again.

During the third part, one repeats the second exercise, making each visualization of white light or color the product of an exhale; this visualization is held for three breaths prior to moving onto the next set. The exercise starts and ends with three breaths, with all of the body covered in white light. One then reverses the order, going backwards until ending up at the start again.

In the final part, one remains in a collected state (meaning, one's attention and atmosphere does not extend beyond the self in any way), and affirms "I am" for several minutes.

In the commentary on this exercise Azize shares the purpose of the exercise according to the Adies, which was to strengthen one's will by linking bodily awareness with the breath, and further still with the quality of the "atmosphere of awareness" each person has. Azize speculates about the purpose behind color, but it is treated by those who practice it of secondary importance. The point is to be able to control and direct one's attention using the awareness of the breath and body as foundations. I see implicit in this is also an attempt to move toward a uniformity or homogeneity of the quality of attention, so that it may manifest equally through the centers.

As evident in the instructions themselves there is heavy emphasis on body scanning and increasing one's awareness of the body as much as possible. Gurdjieff also makes reference to the particular parts of an atmosphere referring to a particular quality of awareness manifestation of one's psyche:

My penultimate comment is that Gurdjieff refers to the "spectrum of [the exercitant's] atmosphere [being] differentiated." The greater the differentiation, he avers, the "greater the intensity of manifestation of one or another of the separate functions of the general psyche of man." This exercise should produce quite definite differentiation, so on Gurdjieff's principles, it should also allow for the stronger manifestation of one's own functions, which would relate to Adie's understanding that the purpose of the exercise was to provide strength.
This association of body scanning with strength seems to connect strongly with Peter Levine's work on Somatic Experiencing, wherein attention on the body or other exterior parts of the environment build "islands of awareness," which can help to provide stability and security in spite of the psyche experiencing an acute emotional shock of some kind due to PTSD or some other type of triggering. In such a more collected state one may experience strong sensations and emotions without being overwhelmed by them. That one may still find and seek solace in pockets of more neutral sensations in the body (thanks to greater awareness of the totality of one's emotional or physical state) does seem to relate to what Gurdjieff has mentioned about greater differentiation in one's awareness/atmosphere allowing one to act with greater discernment according to the situation.

Chapter Sixteen covers the Clear Impressions Exercise. This was an exercise given by George Adie in 1980. It is 15 minutes long and broken up into 5 minute intervals. It is best done in the morning. One relaxes, has a posture that has just enough tension to sit properly. During the first and last interval one sits with eyes open, and in the middle interval one sits with eyes closed. One's gaze must be broad, and not fixed, or focused on anything in particular. While taking in visual and audio stimuli, one rotates through the body scan . Right arm, right leg, left leg, left arm, lower area of the sex organs, the spine, the solar plexus, the head. One must verify (constate?) each sensation before adding the next on the list to the totality, so one ends with a total bodily sensation. During the second interval, one closes one's eyes, and repeat the body scan circuit. Adie leaves it to the individual to determine (without external alarms or looking) when five minutes has passed. One listens to the reverberation "I am." During the third interval one's eyes are open again, and the body scan circuit is repeated for the final five minutes.

So much for the basic instruction. After this Adie stresses the following, which I quote because I found it hard to transliterate.

he wrong kind of effort appears in the observations and reports ... Forcing is quite wrong: and yet we have to make effort. But what kind of an effort? This exercise is to help us learn this effort.

The essence of the exercise is to divide one's attention, to balance it, and to avoid tension and effort. This subtle effort is totally different.... It is very simple, it's too simple for us. "If we try our best, we are certain this effort will not be wasted. Just as all reality is one, so our subjective outer and inner fantastic worlds are one, and it is between the reality and the fantasy of both our inner and outer worlds that our possibility of conscious development lies, and where also lies the field of our work of becoming. Actually in that between-situation.

That is where we want to come, and with the exercise, if you fulfill it properly, you get the chance to experience that between-condition.
Now in the experience of the exercise, in the first five minutes, our eyes continually move and receive impressions of things external to us. As this continues, we maintain our body sensing in rotation... but we do not cease from regarding our surroundings.... However we do not think about what we see, but try to keep our recognition of what we see, in a way, in the background, very different from normal. Perhaps there will seem to be no thoughts. The things we seem to have no significance. We do not possess them. We do not understand them....

And from this we could understand that always we are caught and held, identified with what we see, and that we project what we see. We Project what we see, creating for ourselves an unreal, fantastic world of possessions, demands, hates, lusts, irritability and endless appraisal and criticism.

And now, looking at these surroundings, they seem to be different from us, separated form us, we do not understand them, and only with a special kind of felt effort can we continue to sense ourselves and at the same time receive these impressions external to us: receive them without identification. This is a confrontation, leading perhaps to a moment of self-awareness, a moment of consciousness... not seeing, but consciousness....

The third period starts.... I am in this position, being present to the visual and audible impressions: what are my plans for the day? I haven't lost my sensation. I know I am here. What is left for me but some flashing idea of the kind of day, the kind of trap; what I may need; that to which I have to return, but not as I was, not a slave...
During this meditation one becomes acquainted with the sense of oneself, both with eyes closed and eyes open, and attempts to inhabit the sense with as little participation from the mental center as possible. What Adie seems to describe is an intention to have a purely sensory view of things, with as little coloring by emotional or mental narratives about what is going on. Of all the exercises in the book this one seems to be the most similar to some Buddhist or Zen implementations of meditation (some of which are eyes open or eyes closed).

Chapter Seventeen is about the Preparation, which Azize describes as "the pillar of Gurdjieff's practical methods." It encompasses a lot of exercises similar to it in the past, with special attention paid to the intention of remembering oneself in one's day (hence, what we are preparing for). Azize provides two instructions on how to do the preparation, one from Helen Adie and one from George Adie, and provides commentary on them.

George Adie starts the exercise by requiring we visualize our atmosphere as an envelope a meter around, and instructs one not to allow any attention outside of this bubble. One sits with upright posture, as relaxed as possible but still with enough tension to perfectly balance the skull and the spine. No rigidity can be allowed, and the head must feel lightly balanced on the spine as if suspended with string from one's crown. One starts to direct attention onto one's body again, right arm, right hand, feeling everything. One sits with the new awareness and sensitivity one has gained by becoming newly aware. Once this is verified, one allows the sensitivity of the body to increase, moving up the arm. As one adds and directs more awareness to the body, one may find that other body parts begin to anticipate the increased awareness. Ones arms, then one's legs, then the dantian or sex organs. The solar plexus, with no control over the breath - breathing naturally, yet with attention on it. In this state one may feel something arising from the dantian or sex organs, meeting and melding with the breath, then rapidly spreading to the rest of the body and its extremities. If one is sufficiently balanced, one may also feel an extremely fine substance entering the cranium and sinking downwards to meet and mingle with the air. One's mind may wander but if one's attention is strong and focused on the sensations, relaxation, and increasingly the feeling of these intermingling substances it will not both one much. The end point of this exercise is to arrive at a definite sensation of the self, at which (if one arrives there) allows one to say "I am," with no imagination of sensation or feeling involved. One practices the Preparation for at least seven minutes, and terminates it before one loses the state due to indolence or the loss of attention. When one opens one's eyes new impressions enter, but one also attempts to retain the sense of I. In the notes by Helen Adie such a level of self-remembering leaves a trace in the psyche and attitudes, which one then can take with one throughout the day toward that which one has prepared. Once again, Azize warns that coming out of such a meditative state too quickly can cause the accumulated elements to evaporate and become useless.

As stated before, the goal of the Preparation was to prepare the individual for remembering oneself in the social domain of life, in the world. Adie also says that it is best done in the morning, to move beyond moving from sleep to wakefulness to moving from mere wakefulness to self-remembering. Jane Heap, who was a pupil of G's, had this comment on the Preparation in her notes:

In morning when doing preparation my aims is to keep myself separate from all these things:
All cares of the day--
All tiny things that have to be decided--
All little grievances--
All that i have to fight that pulls me away from the stat that I want to be in - in my preparation.
Azize devotes a section going more into the time and posture of the exercise, how it transforms willpower by invoking more centers and increasing one's awareness of what the I (whether that's the Deputy Steward, the Steward, or the Real I). A shorter version of the Preparation can be conducted before bed as well, which (I imagine) can dovetail nicely with the Genuine Being Duty Exercise and other forms of intention-setting for one's day.

Azize wraps up the book with Chapter Eighteen, which is about the last exercises Gurdjieff had given to various pupils of his, including Claustres and the Adies. According to Claustres this last exercise was essentially a credo similar to that given by Ashita Shiemash in Beelzebub's Tales: to provide for one's body and family, and to work toward developing an inner consciousness of self and conscience. The last exercise given to the Adies was almost exactly the same as the "I am" exercise, only with emphasizing "am" while constantating the spine as the center of the motor center (similar to how one was to constantate the solar plexus as the center of the lower emotional center).

Azize recaps some of the speculations he gave throughout the book on Gurdjieff's initial reluctance to incorporate contemplative exercises in his work. Part of this was a painfully cognizant awareness of the double edged swords that hypnosis provides, and its dangers in potentially inducing higher forms of sleep.

Emphasis was also again placed on the importance of gradually moving the exercises over to the domain of real life, where one may be able to conduct these acts of contemplation and awareness and clear impressions while in the thick of ordinary life, where it was truly useful. While Gurdjieff did acknowledge that work in the quiet was at first critical to provide a baseline or a blank canvas onto which new psychological data about oneself may be recorded, that an exercise which could only be conducted in such a secluded state would be less useful than one in which a quality of awareness applicable to all situations everywhere could be cultivated.

Azize incorporates a section again speculating on the origin of many of Gurdjieff's exercises, bringing up again this thesis that at least some of his system was incorporated from the hesychasts, or at least occupied the same mystical, philosophical, and cultural milieu as them. Evidence of Sufism and Tibetan Buddhism are also present. Gradually as he adapted his teachings to the more secular cultures in the west he dispensed with some of the more esoteric concepts, such as the Ray of Creation. In spite of that, the core retained over the course of Gurdjieff's career was the training and development of an I, and a will in order to manifest more strongly in the world in creative ways. A quiet religiosity an Orthodox Christian nature, recognizing the universality of death and human weakness as a force to spur one to good, has always remained pervasive, including being the final note in Beelzebub's Tales. If anything such a sentiment had only increased as Gurdjieff approached the end of his own life.

Concluding Remarks

Azize prepares some concluding remarks about the various types of exercises Gurdjieff had employed for Transformed Contemplation.

The most common threads were:
1. the need to consciously sense one's body in a relaxed states;
2. while having some awareness of one's feelings (chiefly a feeling of presence);
3. with all this being directed by an undistracted intellect.

If this was maintained, three happy results could flow:
4. a unified calm in one's presence;
5. higher hydrogens could be received and digested;
6. and the higher being bodies coated, which allow the higher and the lower centers to work together in unison

Eventually this would achieve the grand aim of:
7. Exercitants' achieving their own real "I," with powers of consciousness, will, expressive of their own individuality, and able to hear and support their conscience.
Thread 1 is a very common technique in a lot of psychological techniques, including Somatic Experiencing developed by Peter Levine or Bioenergetics by Alexander Lowen. Awareness of the body's tensions allows one to relax them consciously more, which can undo some of the unnecessary strain unconscious emotional holding patterns can exert on the body. In such states we learn to differentiate sensations from feelings more, which is the goal of the Soil Preparing Exercise. Eiriu Eolas itself advocates getting in touch with one's body very much, although does not provide specific instructions. The goal of these was not only to increase one's awareness of feelings (thread 2) but to provide resources by which one may deal with aspects of those feelings that are destabilizing or negative (due to some maladaptation of the emotional center). The NARM of Healing Developmental Trauma provides details on how these maladaptations may arise.

EE departs from Gurdjieff's exercises in that there is conscious control of breathing. Gurdjieff has typically warned against this due to the lack of knowledge people have about the effects of certain breathing techniques. Modern science, particularly that related to vagal nerve stimulation, has filled in a lot of these gaps, so one is now more able to control one's physiological state with conscious breathing in such a way that is more conductive to improving the functions of both the mind and the body.

Thread 3 is worked on chiefly by seeded meditations, which is especially bolstered by thread 1 and 2, the improvements of which increasingly free the intellect by attempts by the emotional or instinctive center to hijack it.

The maintenance of the first three threads, according to Azize, lays the foundations for deeper calm and improving communication between the soul and body. All of this aids us in living our lives with greater authenticity and willpower (thread 7) when we act creatively in the world while striving not to lose ourselves again in our programs. Just taking this at face value the importance of networking and working collectively on an aim receives less attention than the exerciese themselves in terms of sheet volume, but their importance is never lost on Azize or other Gurdjieff scholars when it comes to first acquiring and training a will, even in a book such as this, devoted to contemplative exercises.
 

Saman

The Living Force
FOTCM Member
I read and quite enjoyed the book Gurdjieff: Mysticism, Contemplation, and Exercises by Joseph Azize, who had appeared in a couple of interesting interviews on Mind Matters. As far as Gurdjieff studies go, this book is noteworthy for compiling and discussing the variety of internal exercises that Gurdjieff taught to his students, possible sources of the exercises, as well as how and why Gurdjieff developed them within the scope of his aims and practices based on the type of work he was engaged in at certain times in his teaching career. I feel like this added context did provide an extra dimension of understanding, and did line up with some of my own observations while reading other biographical materials about Gurdjieff from Ouspensky, William Patrick Patterson, and others related anecdotes sprinkled throughout the forum here.
Indeed. Thank you for the excellent summary Whitecoast-it looks like it took a lot of time time and energy! I am going to start reading your second part of the summary tomorrow. Based on your summary in part one, this books is full evidently full of gems, so I just purchased the hard copy instead of the Kindle version in case the internet goes down one day, whenever that may possibly be.
 
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