The Gurdjieff Journal—Fourth Way Perspectives

Interview with Joyce Collin-Smith
Part I


Author, journalist and astrologer, Joyce Collin-Smith recounts her experiences with her first mentor, Rodney Collin-Smith, the Gurdjieff Work, and the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. She lives in Norfolk, England.


Telos:  In more traditional times when one entered upon a Way it was for life. Today it's not uncommon for seekers to have been initiated into any number of teachings. Is this a 'sign of the times?' If so, how to see it?

JCS: It does seem to be a time when many people are leaving teachers and gurus where they have felt very comfortable for years, and now suddenly feel most unhappy.

Telos: What's being 'comfortable' and 'unhappy' to do with awakening? Aren't these just states?

JCS: Probably. But remember many correspondents have never heard of Gurdjieff. They are trying to find their own way through the jungle of ideas after becoming disillusioned with some teacher or perhaps a church or sect which does not come up to their expectations.

Telos: We seem to be living in a time of dissolution, a mechanical passing from one world-time to another in the Great Cycle of Time. Do you see this as in an ascending or descending octave?

Jacob's Ladder Two-Way Traffic

JCS: How can one be sure? I am very conscious of the two-way traffic of Jacob's Ladder. With the coming of the Aquarian Age, perhaps we are entering an era of individual responsibility. Responsibility for our own development. People feel terrible, agonizing misgivings and uncertainties about this time.

Telos: How can we discriminate between leaving a teacher being an impulse from false personality, one of the 'I's', or from essence? And if we are 'asleep' as Mr. Gurdjieff says, how can we know, how can we take responsibility?

JCS: People who have been with Gurdjieff groups seem to get very bogged down with feelings of we can't 'do,' as he said. When they feel strongly, 'I must change trains at this station. The train I'm on is going somewhere I don't want to be, or even not going anywhere,' there is surely a brief awakening of a real 'I'? That makes them get off and start looking for a 'train' they seem to recognize, for the next stage of the journey. That is taking responsibility, isn't it?

Telos: Your book, Call No Man Master, certainly has a strong sense of life and has attracted much interest.

JCS: I wrote it in an extraordinary state of consciousness. It seems now almost as though it had to be written—was needed. Who knows? Sometimes one does feel these things may be engineered elsewhere.

Telos: When you reflect now—how would you characterize your experience with your teachers?

JCS: I've come across some good teachers who were well able to pass on a psychological or philosophical or religious set of ideas and concepts. Passing on what they have been taught and believe to be the truth about life, mankind, God, the universe, what you will.

Telos: Are we speaking here of only conceptual knowledge? If that is the level of exchange, can we really call such a person a teacher?

JCS: Why not? We need teachers from kindergarten up to the university level at least, even in ordinary life. People find a teacher at the level appropriate and then work on what is given.

Telos: What about the highest level of teaching? That whose manifestation springs from the being of a Master?

Real Masters Are Rare

JCS: The real Masters—who are rare—give the impression of knowing, not just believing and expounding convincingly. A 'man who knows' holds the aspirant with an almost irresistible power. Very difficult to get away from.

Telos: If the seeker has had the good fortune to work with such a Master, is it a bit arrogant to speak of leaving before attaining a like level of vibration?

JCS: Well, if you could find a perfect Master.... But everyone I came across was very human in the end and had some sort of axe to grind, you see. Beyond a certain point you followed at your peril. That was my experience.

Telos: You mean your work came to a place where to go on you would have had to accept the Master 'warts and all'? There would be an 'I'-death in that, of course—a dissolution of one's notion of human 'perfection.' Do you see this question of 'perfection' any differently today?

JCS: If you loved a Master enough to be willing to travel in his slipstream—reincarnate still in his slipstream perhaps—you would have to go through that 'I'-death for him. But I think the 'I'-death can be experienced in other ways. Ultimately, I think one has to follow one's own lodestar, one's own quest for 'perfection.'

Telos: Let's ground our discussion now in actual experience.

JCS: Let's start with the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. He initiated me into his Transcendental Meditation in the early days, the 1960's, when he hadn't much of a following. He was a strange mixture of naiveté and innocence and an astute but very oriental intelligence. I spent six years quite close to him, driving him around in my car, cooking his vegetarian curries, washing his silk robes, taking dictation for his books.


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