Self-Observation [2]

~Maurice Nicoll

Psychological Commentaries on the Teaching of Gurdjieff and Ouspensky

The object of this Work is to make us conscious in ourselves and to ourselves, to what is going on in us, to the vast inner traffic of thoughts and feelings that lies within, in the psychic invisible realm as distinct from the vast outer physical world of things and people that the senses reveal to us. Here, in this inner world, and in what we select and reject in it, lies the key to the Work, and so to evolution. 

You all know how to reject and select things in the outer world. You discard useless things from your business and cling to useful things. It is the same idea. Suppose, by long observation, you notice that 'I's create moods, thoughts and feelings, that depress you, that eat you, that make you despondent, or negative, or suspicious, or evil-minded. Then what are you going to do? 

Are you going to give such moods, such states, full approval? Are you going to regard them as you? Why should you? If it is pouring with rain, do you remain in it or separate from it ? Are you going to practise non-identifying with these bad inner states, not going with them, not listening to them? But if you cannot see you are many and insist on regarding yourself as one, then you can do nothing with regard to your inner life. 

What is this Work about? It is to open us to new and better influences coming down from the Ray of Creation. What is life? It is a machine under certain influences that nourish the Moon. You see it at work now. Notice it. Think what it is like. It is not an exceptional state of things that prevails now. It is the ordinary state of things, of life. But the Side-Octave from the Sun comes down to us carrying the possibility of new influences. 

In that brief spiritual period of Ancient Egypt, under Amen-Hotep, I think, the Sun was represented by long rays ending in hands. It did not mean the literal, visible sun, of course, but a higher level of understanding and life such as that belonging to Conscious Humanity—not to this violent, greedy, asleep and chaotic humanity covering the surface of the Earth and used almost entirely for cosmic purposes. This is quite understandable. We are already quite familiar with the esoteric teaching, with the Work, in that respect. We can easily understand why Amen-Hotep represented the Sun with hands at the end of its rays reaching towards the Earth. But they were never shewn, however, as quite reaching the Earth. You remember that rope, of which the Work speaks, to which it is necessary to jump up in order to catch hold of it ? Now if you estimate this Work by your practical business 'I's, or your ordinary pleasure and worldly 'I's, you will not be able to realize you are not one but many. It requires a trace of Magnetic Centre. It requires a little emotional understanding and not merely formatory proof. How can I prove to you that a strawberry tastes different from an apple ? Not by any formatory arguments, I assure you. You must taste and see for yourselves. 

How can I prove to you that to begin to feel the many influences of the Work is different from being soaked in life ? Of course I cannot, by any formatory argument. Nor can I prove to you that this Work is true. If you are wholly in life, best not to attempt it. In fact, the Work will not seek to touch you. You are then just in life with its horizons. If that satisfies you, then why attempt a new interpretation, a new meaning for existence on this imperfect and violent planet? This Work is for those who feel some conviction that life cannot be understood in terms of itself. If you are satisfied with all your experiences, if you feel life is all you need, if you are thoroughly satisfied with yourself, if you are content with everything, as yet experienced, then, I repeat, why seek this Work? But if not, then you must be intelligent enough to connect your dissatisfaction with this Work. 

You must begin to be able to realize that your many discontents are not exceptional and catch a glimpse of what the Work says about life—-how everything happens, how your being attracts what happens to you, and so on. Otherwise how can the Work help you? I would like you to consider what is meant here. It is a very deep idea. It is far too easy to become negative and blame others or circumstances. This occurs on all sides. It is the usual life-opera. But Magnetic Centre makes a person feel there must be something else. He has an idea there is another opera—not all negative emotion and tragedy. The problem is an inner one. Its solution begins with self-observation according to definite instructions. So unless you can observe yourself, the Work remains dead. In order to observe yourself, it is necessary to realize that you are not one but many. Unless you can see eventually different 'I's in yourself, you cannot reject or select. And without the Work and the understanding of what it is about, you will not be able—eventually— to reject and select rightly. But if this is done, new influences begin to enter your inner life. You begin to feel the beginning of new life, and very gracious it is. 

If you listen to it, something begins to grow. If you know when you are out of touch with it and feel a deprivation and seek it again, then it will return again. For a long time—and inevitably— one swings between the old and the new. It is a question of inner valuation, of that strange thing called Will, which is like turning without violence in one direction in spite of upsets—like a magnetic needle. But all this—all the beginning of this octave we spoke of that creates new energies—I say, all this remains almost impossible if you say 'I' to everything in yourself. Then one is in total darkness as in the opening verses of Genesis. Light is not yet divided from darkness. Now I would like some of you especially to notice 'I's that eat your force. 

Recently I had a plague of them and for a time did not notice them. I took these thoughts and words and feelings as 'I'. That is, I was asleep. You are, each of you, surrounded inside with negative, weak, carping, poor, suspicious, narrow, stupid 'I's. Some of them have gained great strength by long habitual consent to them. You observe a person—he or she suddenly loses force—becomes weak, negative, lost and so on. What has happened? Some 'I' is eating that person. Our inner life is far more dangerous than our outer life and its dangers. Now you must understand, all of you, that this doctrine of 'I's does not relieve you of all responsibility. Only a fool can imagine that. 

To reject 'I's or to select 'I's is a very real thing. To go with wrong 'I's must give you real pain, real suffering. This is useful suffering. You must learn to hate 'I's in yourself. Otherwise you will make the Work trivial, an excuse for doing just what you want. There are periods when the Work comes down very hard on you. Then it passes for a time. But if it never comes down hard on you, you may be sure it is not yet willing to touch you. Last year I was told a dream by someone not here now. This person dreamt that all his uncles and aunts, his mother, his father, sisters, brothers were standing round him. He was lying in bed, dying and almost dead. All these people were in deep black. I entered the room looking very thin and ill and pale and then left in a hurry without looking directly at him. Well, here you
see an emotional parable-picture of this person's inner state. All the acquired life-'I's surround him. He is dying. The Work enters, but in a very poor way, and leaves hurriedly. Perhaps this will shew you why this person died as far as the Work is concerned. He had in himself no free power of choice. In a way he saw the Work, but his 'I's were too strong. Remember the Work is exactly as strong in you as you allow it to be. It is a question of valuation.

From: Volume 2