Gurdjieff International Review

The Power of Attention

Henri Tracol

In relation to objective hope our greatest help is attention. To try this day to have “une attention azimut—to be attentive on all sides, but above and beyond all, to be attentive to my own presence.

The power of attention—not to force, but not to evade. The attention is there; I need to connect with it. My presence is already there; my attention is already there. They have always been there.

I need to be an attentive being—available to this power of attention.1

The Critical Mind and Attention

H. Tracol

Question: I am interested in the relationship of the critical mind to attention and to faith. This brings back to me the biggest experience I had in Mr. Gurdjieff’s way of teaching ... years ago when many of us were coming to read, or to type, chapters of Beelzebub. On one of those days ... I passed Mr. Gurdjieff who was standing in front of a gas burner on which stood a large pot of boiling, steaming soup. He was stirring this soup. I stood stock still: here was this little creature in front of Mr. Gurdjieff! He turned his head and looked at me. And then, without a word, he took a ladleful of the soup and brought it to my mouth. I opened my mouth and swallowed the steaming hot soup! Not a word was spoken, not a sound all through this. It was a real burn, I assure you, but I have never forgotten the lesson! It was through this shock that I was brought into direct contact, into an organic relationship with my attention. And Mr. Gurdjieff made me experience how my attention functioned and what blind faith was—absolutely blind with no room for anything else.


Henri Tracol: I think it is very striking for everybody. If the critical mind were only for some very high, metaphysical consideration it would be utterly impractical. And Mr. Gurdjieff’s teaching was utterly practical.

Perhaps a little more could be said about this relationship with attention. If the real purpose of man’s existence is to awake and to search for his own meaning, attention is required at every step, and at every step attention is driven away by this, that, and the other. We really need some power to bring back our attention so that it could be free in order to encompass as much as possible of the situation. And obviously, without the critical mind (or whatever is our share of critical mind) our possibility to do so is practically reduced to nothing.

Attention Creates the Power of Relation

I am here now.

This is by itself evidence of my genuine recognition of my real need. But, since I am here now, I cannot help asking myself about the nature of my interest: where does my interest go? How far does it go? What does it embrace? How long does it last? These questions will follow me all day, and, if I try to observe myself, what I shall see is my incapacity to have an intention, and the fragility of the attention that I return to. Whatever I am confronted with will bring about the evidence of how weak, how fleeting, how insignificant is my interest.

I have got to realize that in many parts of myself I am not really concerned. I do not really care for a sense of presence to myself, and whatever idea I try, I see that I am not even informed in most parts of myself of this need of mine. So at times I try a little bit to open myself to try to see the necessity for opening myself to it—I myself, by my own experience: why this lack of information?—and to suffer the fact that I am not aware of my real need. This already brings me back to the realization that my attention is very limited. My feeling of this fantastic power of attention is very poor.

Attention is the most tremendous power in the world. And it is very ambiguous: for my attention is the key to both consciousness and to identification. So I have to watch and see, to be sure for myself in which direction I am spending the interest in whatever I see in relation to myself. Attention creates the power of relation. I relate myself to the world, to others, to the work, and to my manifestations, through attention. I relate myself to myself through my attention.

We are here to try to make acquaintance with this power, and to try to know it better and to relate to it in as many aspects as possible. My first move is to relate myself to where I am; to try and see where I am; to relate to the experience of my body.

Am I able to perceive the presence of such a power of attention as far as my body is concerned?

Today maybe we try to put our effort onto this: to try not to guess, but to actually experience how much of myself is engaged in this relation—to be concerned and engaged in realizing my own presence in my body and follow what happens there: what increases, what is evoked?

~ • ~

These excerpts are from Tracol’s book, The Real Question Remains, Sandpoint, ID: Morning Light Press, 2009, pp. 198, 185–186.

Copyright © 2013 Gurdjieff Electronic Publishing
Featured: Fall 2013 Issue, Vol. XII (1)
Revision: November 1, 2013


1 These quotations of Henri Tracol are from the private notes of Jenny Koralek taken during a summer session in 1983 in southern France (Gordes).