Heart without Measure: Work with Madame de Salzmann

Heart without Measure: Work with Madame de Salzmann

By Ravi Ravindra
Halifax, Nova Scotia: Shaila Press, 1999. Hardback, 218 pages.

Ravi Ravindra had the privilege to work with Madame Jean de Salzmann for more than a decade. Madame de Salzmann worked with Gurdjieff for many years and was entrusted with continuing the Work (Gurdjieff's teachings) after his death in 1949. This book is a collection of journal entries from1971 to 1990 by Ravindra that document conversations, communications, and encounters between Ravindra and Madame de Salzmann and provide a glimpse, of her extraordinary compassion and love.

Each chapter consists of the state of mind of the author when encountering problems, his observations, and his insights, followed by discussions with Madame de Salzmann regarding the difficulty experienced during meditation or other exercises performed to assist in the integration of the body and mind. At the end of each section, a summary of the remarks of Madame de Salzmann is given so that the reader can review them in their pristine form.

The doubts, questions, play of the mind, and frustrations experienced by the author are not unlike the issues many would face when embarking on a serious journey. What is admirable is the honesty with which the author records his feelings and mentions them in the subsequent conversations with Madame de Salzmann. Ravindra remarks that if you go to a doctor but hide your symptoms, you cannot expect to get the right treatment. It is easy for us to relate with the author when he is counting the days until he can leave after coming to an intense session at the Foundation in Paris.

The observations and in some cases insights, such as "I realize that violence, both internal and external, arises from a feeling of not being needed, not being useful" and "Thinking without words, that is attention," seem to stay with us long after the book is put down.

The central theme of the Work is the harmonization of the three forces of the body, mind, and feeling. "Unless these are together, equally developed and harmonized, a steady connection cannot be made with a higher force. Everything in the Work is a preparation for that connection. That is the aim of the Work.

The experiences and the efforts made by the author in developing this connection and the untiring help and guidance provided by Madame Salzmann are the focus of the book. Oh, what a doctor she was! She was able to see the inner feelings and sensations and to provide guidance to move in the right direction during a movement or meditation, and she gave tremendous courage to the students to lay bare all their warts.

For those who are familiar with Gurdjieff's Work, this book will be beneficial, as it provides invaluable insights from the voice of Madame de Salzmann. Even for those who have no prior knowledge of the Work, some of the remarks of Madame de Salzmann are crystal clear. One such statement is "Man has a special function, which other creatures cannot fulfill. He can serve the earth by becoming a bridge for certain higher energies. But man, as he is by nature, is not complete. In order to fulfill his proper function he needs to develop. There is a part of him which is unsatisfied by his life. Through religious or spiritual traditions he may become aware what this part needs." However there are statements that require a deeper attention on the part of the reader: "What is important is the connection with the higher energy. And when one is not related, one must stay in front of the lack of connection. Stay in front of whatever is taking place: stay in front of your connection or the lack of it. Stay in front."

The title of the book is appropriately named Heart without Measure, and one can see in each page the love and untiring assistance given to the author by Madame de Salzmann. The author rightly acknowledges and appreciates the assistance. However, the real "guru dakshina" or expressed gratitude would be to continue the Work. To some extent this is achieved by writing the book. For those who want to learn who a true teacher is and what honesty in effort means, this book will be inspiring.


March/April 2003