Aim and Wish, by Annie Lou Staveley
To Michael Smyth, In Memoriam
This is a re-post of Madame Staveley’s wonderful pamphlet, originally published on March 8, 2013 in our former blog. Its subject may be of interest and use for the trying times we are now living.
People often speak of the difficulties they have in formulating their aims. That is because they start from idea, from thought. Aim is not an idea, thought it has thought in it. Aim must be feeling-plus-thought. Start from a picture-from feeling.
Aim has to start with wish-with what you essentially wish to be. Take an egg. It has a hard shell around a tiny growing point surrounded by that which is needed to help it grow into what it is meant to become. In the center the growing point dreams of what it could be. But the wish is weak and is not effective against the protective shell which is its prison. That is, the egg is dormant as long as the wish of the potential growing point and the shell remain on the same level-this level. Our level.
However, wish has a magic ingredient. Being spirit it can reach a higher level from which it can receive help and strength. Wish can escape from the prison while still in it, but is ineffectual unless the growing point of the egg begins to stir, begins to be disturb. In an actual egg the disturbance comes from outside itself- from the sun rays, from the arrival of spring-but a human being must begin to share the wish to be, to be aware of it, and in consequence become enabled to add the weight of effort to the wish. Really, to share the help from above that comes through wish, and to actualize it.
The growing point, the nucleus, the potential being, up to now protected by the shell, begins to feel constricted and to perceive the shell as a prison and to push against it. No one could or should try to help it. This is a task it must accomplish by itself, or as such, perish. It is immensely fragile and weak, and the shell is immovable, coarse, inflexible. People used to speculate on what happens when the irresistible force meets the immovable object. This happens constantly whenever a seed sprout, an egg hatches-and no one can know in advance how it will turn out with any individual, seed or egg. No more can it be known how it will turn out when a human being awakens to the wish to become that which he could be. You could say that there are some among us who have reached that point, but never can it be known beforehand what the result will be-whether a slow continuation of the inevitable process of becoming, or at a given point, failure.
Gurdjieff says we are not doing anything Nature is not doing also, but we are trying to do it consciously. We turn now from the example of the egg and seeds and try to find an analogy within our own experience of something stirring in us, perhaps just beginning to develop in our dawning consciousness. How do I sense that hard shell that has, up to now, protected me, sleeping as I have been in a dream world? But now something in me is stirring, my dream world begins to be troubled and I am no longer satisfied, but shut in. Whichever way I stretch I come up against that inflexible prison. Sometime I call it my personality and sometimes I call it my mechanicality, but by whatever name there seems no way to escape from it. I am surrounded by all sides. I perceive that although, yes, there is a real wish to escape, there is also a wish to remain safe, protected, and to continue to dream calmly and peacefully. But there are some of us who know we cannot do this. We cannot change without ceasing to remain as we are. I cannot change, as I must, unless I cease to remain as I am. Again and again the disturbance returns- Life is knocking at my door; it is the time to awaken; there is a task to be done. I realize more and more that I cannot actually engage in my task effectively because of being locked in a prison that no longer fits me. It is outgrown.
The shell or mechanical life has to be broken if the feeble embryo is to continue to develop. It vacillates between fearful apprehension and eager exhilaration. The wayside is covered with the corpses of embryos that have made it up to this point but go no further; the wish to become was less or equal in strength to the wish to be safe. Still, there are a few who continue in the processes of becoming and begin to ask: How can I escape from this prison-the prison that is myself? As the dream that I already am, what I could be, no longer satisfies, the prison becomes less and less endurable, and it becomes more difficult to deceive myself.
This is where a man needs to establish an aim-an aim founded on the wish. To be effective the wish has to be transformed into a conscious aim. The egg is transformed by the divine plan, the power of the sun’s rays, the spring. The divine plan is the never-ending wish of the creator for the evolution of being. But unlike the egg or the seed, man has to find himself and his place in it. Although the help is present, waiting for him, he himself must take the contact. At this point he is alone. Just as the chick is destroyed in the painful emergence from its shell if anyone tries to help it, so is the embryo of man when he comes to this point in his own evolution.
It is, of course, a dangerous point and very easy to lose one’s bearings. There are many processes to be completed, and dangers to be avoided, much excess baggage to be jettisoned. I cannot do it by myself-and there is no one to do for me.
There is a lot that could be said here, but only one thing perhaps can really help. Direct your aim to what is above, to what is ahead. Waste no more time trying to correct your past which you cannot do anyhow. You are the sum of all your experiences, the essence of them. Start from there. Look to your own star, to what you are meant to be . The light that comes from that will show you what needs to be transformed-not all at once, but very little by very little. But if you continue to look backwards you may suffer the fate of Lot’s wife. Or you may, like Orpheus, destroy what you most love, your Eurydice.
Bringing it down to practicality, how does one go on from day to day? Try, for a time, to have an aim of aspiration. First ponder: What is aspiration? To what do I Aspire? How can I relate my aim to this in a real but small way? Small enough so that it can be realizable. I almost forgot the most important thing. Don’t be afraid. No matter what happens around you, or to you, don’t be afraid. The plan is good.