Mrs. Staveley

Gurdjieff International Review


by A. L. Staveley

Of necessity a great deal of my work on myself is concerned with this “me”—the me that everyone else can see so plainly and which is so difficult for me to see, especially at first. So much is false, so much is imaginary, so much is habit or conditioning. My ableness to direct my attention is almost nil, my weakness overriding, my wish only unevenly present and then by fits and starts.

But I try as best I can and for a long time it is very confusing. The more glimpses I catch of this unreal, unintegrated bundle of contradictions, pushed and pulled hither and yon by everything outside myself—the more I see I initiate nothing by myself—the more I am bound to ask myself: Who am I? And the more I observe, the more I ask, the less am I able to answer. At the same time I know there is an answer and even where the answer is. For one thing there begins to be something like a taste of myself as I exist right now. It is not agreeable, especially to begin with, but instead somewhat bitter. It is very hard to let the taste just be without trying to change it or escape from it or compensate for it by collecting “credentials”—something to offset my dissatisfaction with what I have always taken to be, but is not, myself.

At the same time, unconsciously of course, I cast about to find something to identify with so that I can tell myself “I am this” or “I am that.” In spite of myself I think of “being” as an end to be gained, something to be seen and sensed and cognized rather than what makes seeing, sensing, and cognition possible.

I AM. Because I am, I can. The I am, the isness, is the center. Me is all my functions, all my activities, all my manifestations. It is the circumference. Me is what appears. It is always there. It can, up to a point, be known. Only real I can know “me” beyond that point. But how can real I be in my presence, in my totality, when it cannot be seen, sensed or cognized with my ordinary apparatus—by me? It is asleep and needs to awaken. In a way it is there but at present only as a possibility for me.

There is one thing that can be done and that is to affirm. I am. I affirm my being. Ultimately only the center can affirm the center, and when this becomes more possible for me something begins to turn inward instead of outward to the perimeter, to stillness and silence instead of the constant agitation of “me” outside.

Several times lately people have spoken of being able to hear the voices of the mind telling them that they are this or that—usually something negative—but whatever the mind tells you, you are not that. It would be good to become more aware of those false voices so that they could become a reminder for us. It is useless fighting them or trying to stop them. What is possible is to make a small stop at the very moment of hearing a mind voice of this kind, then to collect one’s attention and make an affirmation—aloud when alone, under the breath if with others. An affirmation should be made many times every day. It becomes a source of strength, especially if I practice sensing at the same time. Only the real I can know “me.” But it needs to be called, the I needs to awaken. No one can do this for me.

[These words were read on March 21st at the funeral of Michael Smyth—a long time student of Mrs. Staveley and founding member of Two Rivers Farm—who died on March 18, 2001.]

This webpage © 2001 Gurdjieff Electronic Publishing
Featured: Spring 2001 Issue, Vol. IV (2)
Revision: April 1, 2001