by Hught Elliot

Pierre's Teaching

My first encounter with Pierre

By Jose Reyes

 <<<read more about  Pierre

Pierre Elliot was Director of Studies at the Claymont Society where I met him in the year 1975.

My first encounter with Pierre was during an open weekend at Claymont, I had not made the decision yet to go to any of the basic Claymont courses, but two events that occurred during that weekend surely helped make up my mind about going to
a basic  course.  One was that I  could not  do the  rhythmic exercises given to us by  Pierre,  (I was then a fourth degree black belt and very good at performing Katas*),  and the second was the open movements class  preformed by Claymont residents.  I finally enrolled for the third basic course.

Pierre came to the Dominican Republic on various occasions and every time I discovered more details of his way of teaching. He would never approach the teaching directly, he would only give hints and you had to make the rest of the effort for yourself. He never served the ideas in a ready-made fashion but in a rather uncooked form. With him insistence and persistence were essential ingredients.

Pierre Elliot and Jose Reyes

I remember very vividly how every time he travel to the DR he would bring a suitcase full of papers, I really wanted to know what documents he was bringing, and usually at the end of each trip he would let me copy a few. Then to my surprise in one of his last trips to the DR, he calls me one day to his room and showed me his papers suitcase and says: take anything you feel you will need from there and copy. I ended up with a suitcase full of papers also.

Another event that left a deep impression in me was an incident  that happened to us in a  small town in the DR. We had gone there to spend the night, since he was due to take a plane early next morning. We try to find a good place for him to spend the night. All we could find was one of those beat up hotels that are used mainly by prostitutes to do their business. We accommodated him in a very bad room with lots of mosquitoes and just a small fan. I could not sleep very well  that night thinking how mad he would be next day, and that he was going to tell me how inconsiderate I have been, treating him like trash and so on. When I knocked at  the door to wake him up, He was already awake,  and when  he opened the door I encountered the sweetest smile I have seen in any human being. I remember then what Madame Ouspensky said when they asked her to define what 'Being'  was.  And she said: "Being is what you are able bare".

No doubt in my mind that Pierre has a great Being; in many occasions I saw how he could endure adverse conditions with a very good emotional state.

His way of teaching was personal and direct and he never believed in being the head of a Fourth Way organization. He used to say: Organizations could easily be a double edge sword, the more you need to Organize the further you are from "Real Work". You have to find a happy medium; otherwise you have to create so many rules that you loose spontaneity, which is the basic ingredient of the Work. Many organizations are only rules and the substance of the Work has escaped from them.

His approach to sensing was also unique; he said that sensing was not a practice that was confined to a meditation room. It is instead an hourly need and no matter in what we are engaged in during the day we must bring sensation to bear. He told the story of Madame asking him many years back if he knew how to separate. He said yes, only to understand many years latter that he was not able to bring himself away from the activity and bear witness.

He ask me once: How do you bring separation about?
I quickly answered: -through sensation.
He said:   "that is only the beginning of a long process. What you are saying is,  that all that is needed to cook a meal is fire".
"Fire is only an ingredient ".
"Sensation is the beginning of separation, but connection is the next step.  When you connect you do not connect to the old self, you are making a sustaining an intentional effort  to be in  a better  part of yourself. How long one can keep this separation alive depends on the quality of the available  energy stored previously."

Pierre was also very fond of nature, where he always found an expansion of the horizon of perceptions. He always treated nature with respect and kept a well-documented record of all the beaches he went to by collecting the different sands in very small test tubes.

He was also a great storyteller and he often connected his stories with his teachings. I remember very well an incident that occurred during one of the short (3 months) Claymont courses. I was in charge of the course together with Steve Prehoda and Avron Altman (Larry).  Each one of us was in  charge of making up the schedule  for two weeks.  Making up the schedule was not an easy task,  since  it  was necessary to  coordinate all  the activities  with the residents,  and they  did not accepted  last  minute schedule changes. Pierre changed all the activities for that weekend. This decision upset  my   whole schedule and I was very mad. I went to him to find a solution  and we took a walk. He explained  to me something that has remained with me, as if it was only yesterday. He said that the Benedictine order has existed for 300 hundred years,  and the main reason of their existence was because they have a person in charge of planning all the activities of the order, but there is also an abbot that could change the whole schedule; he could introduce uncertainties. His decisions were design to break the routine and escape from mechanical actions that caused the downgrade of the order. This has been  a very rewarding lesson for me. I can see how the groups become stale by following activities according to plan.  People get stuck in logical thinking.  He showed  me  that to be alive is to be able  to  adapt  to changes and find fresh solutions to unpredictable.

I must say that I was very lucky to have the opportunity to work with Pierre, I met both the man and the teacher. As a man he was jovial and full of life.  Very attentive to small details and  it felt good to be in his company. He made jokes and talked often about Mr. Gurdjieff and Mr. Bennett. He was very fond of his family and talked very proudly about their achievements.

*Katas; a series of complicated sequences that simulate a defense against various imaginary opponents.
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