Week 1

Fourth Way Wisdom Work: Self-Remembering
Week One


Self-remembering is one of the core Fourth Way inner work practices.  It is a term with a rich density of meaning.  There are many ways to “self-remember” and it is difficult to give it a concise definition.  Over the course of the next 13 weeks, we will explore this foundational practice as taught by Maurice Nicoll and recorded in his Commentaries.

We will explore many different inner practices, but for the next thirteen weeks, our default inner work exercise will be a practice adapted from Deborah Rose Longo’s “Inner Task Friday” in the Facebook Wisdom School Community with Cynthia Bourgeault’s Wisdom students.

  1. Become aware of the natural flow of your breathing for a few breaths, noting the sensation or presence of the physical body as the air comes in and goes out. Relax the body as you breathe out.
  2. Let a feeling of gratitude or wonder arise. Relax into a feeling of gratitude or wonder for life or for whatever you may feel gratitude for. Do this for a few more breathes.
  3. For the next few breaths, say inwardly “I”, as you inhale, breathing with the intention of taking in finer energies or substances in the air and feeling a connection to Higher help. When you breathe out say inwardly “AM”, with an awareness of your whole body physical presence.
  4. Finish in three breaths with Inner words: “Lord Help Me”; “Lord Help Us”; “Lord Have Mercy”.

The exercise itself is a form of self-remembering — returning from “all these other things” back to myself.  Its aim is to practice three-centered awareness — observing (seeing), sensing, feeling. Engaging all three centers and having a sense of whole body awareness is essential. Activating gratitude, wonder, a sense of our own being, or our own inner poverty and need for higher help — all are good catalysts for self-remembering.

The inner exercise should only take a minute or two (or less) once familiar with the steps and will remain the same each week. Only the time we choose to engage the exercise will change. Each week we will engage this practice at a designated time — usually before or during a routine activity in the day, or while transitioning into a new activity.

This week we will do the exercise everyday at the moment when we wake up and are still lying in bed.

For those sharing a bed with a mate, a child or a pet(s) it is best to do the exercise before engaging in any communication with your bedmates. You may have to be creative and resourceful if outer influences demand your attention immediately and can not wait, as is sometimes the case with babies and some pets!


Do you see any connections between these scripture readings and the Nicoll commentary reading for this week?

Gospel of Thomas – Logion 16

Yeshua says…

Some of you are thinking perhaps
that I have come into the cosmos to bring it peace.
No! You do not yet realize
that I have come to throw it into utter chaos
through burning, blade, and battle.

Five will be living in one household.
Three will face off against two,
and two against three.
Parents will rise up against children,
and children against their parents,
until at last they shall stand as one on their own feet.


Mark 1:4-11 (New International Version)

  1. And so John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.
  2. The whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to him. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River.
  3. John wore clothing made of camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey.
  4. And this was his message: “After me comes the one more powerful than I, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie.
  5. I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”
  6. At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan.
  7. Just as Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove.
  8. And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”

Psalm 29 (New International Version)

  1. Ascribe to the Lord, you heavenly beings,
    ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.
  2. Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name;
    worship the Lord in the splendor of his holiness.
  3. The voice of the Lord is over the waters;
    the God of glory thunders,
    the Lord thunders over the mighty waters.
  4. The voice of the Lord is powerful;
    the voice of the Lord is majestic.
  5. The voice of the Lord breaks the cedars;
    the Lord breaks in pieces the cedars of Lebanon.
  6. He makes Lebanon leap like a calf,
    Sirion like a young wild ox.
  7. The voice of the Lord strikes
    with flashes of lightning.
  8. The voice of the Lord shakes the desert;
    the Lord shakes the Desert of Kadesh.
  9. The voice of the Lord twists the oaks
    and strips the forests bare.
    And in his temple all cry, “Glory!”
  10. The Lord sits enthroned over the flood;
    the Lord is enthroned as King forever.
  11. The Lord gives strength to his people;
    the Lord blesses his people with peace.



The following reading is taken from Maurice Nicoll, Psychological Commentaries on the Teaching of Gurdjieff and Ouspensky, Vol. 1, 1996 Edition: Samuel Weiser Inc., pp. 196-200

NOTE: This week’s reading is edited to reflect more inclusive language. Post any reflections from this reading in the work group discussion for this week.

ON HYDROGENS: IV The First Conscious Shock and Self-Remembering

Chief obstacle to self-remembering

For most people, even for educated and thinking people, the chief obstacle to their attaining the state of consciousness called Self-Remembering lies in the fact that they think they possess it already. They think that they remember themselves in everything they do and in everything they say, and they not only think that they are conscious at every moment and aware of themselves but believe that they are conscious of their inner lives also and fully aware of all the thoughts and emotions that pass through them in a continuous stream.

And because they think they always remember themselves and act and speak with full consciousness and are fully aware of everything they say and do, they believe that they have real will and a permanent unchanging ‘I’ and that they have the ability to do–as, for example, that they can change themselves if they really wish to, or change their lives, or change other people, or do just as they like.

Our inability to change ourselves

But of course they cannot change themselves or their lives or other people or do just as they like, because they do not possess any real will, but many contradictory wills, nor have they any permanent ‘I’ but many changing ‘I’s and when they are doing something it is not from conscious will and conscious choice but from what only can happen at that moment to them.

For just as in life everything happens in the only way in which it can possibly happen, and no one really does anything at all, although it looks as if people do, so is it in the case of a single individual. Everything in his or her life takes place in the only way in which it can possibly take place, and as long as an individual remains the same, everything else will be the same.

It is evident that you will not be interested if you someone tells you about a state of consciousness that you think you already possesses. And this is one reason why people find it so difficult to understand anything about the meaning of Remembering Oneself or the state of Self-Awareness or Self-Consciousness.

They ascribe this state to themselves as they are and really believe they pass their existence in a full state of consciousness. They do not realize that they cannot help doing what they are doing. They believe that all their actions are controlled by their will, that they do everything deliberately, and so on.

Our inability to remember ourselves

Yet our ordinary state of consciousness is almost the reverse of all this. I ordinarily do not remember myself, I am not aware of myself, I am not properly conscious of what I do nor of what I say. Nor do I make the decisions I imagine I make. Nor am I properly conscious of my inner life, which is actually very obscure to me. Of all the thoughts and feelings that pass through me mechanically I am scarcely conscious of a millionth part.

Self-remembering is our right

Yet actually the state of consciousness called “Self-Remembering” in which we are aware of ourselves and of all we see round us, and at the same time aware of all the thoughts and feelings passing through us — this state of consciousness is our right. And if we do not possess it, it is only because of the wrong conditions of our life.

It can be said without exaggeration that at the present time, the state of consciousness called Self-Remembering (or the Third State of Consciousness) occurs in us only in the form of rare flashes and it can only be made more permanent in us by a long and special training.

The importance of self-observation

This special training begins with self-observation. It is only by means of observing ourselves uncritically and over a considerable period that we begin to understand that we do not remember ourselves. We realize that most of the time we live in dreams. We realize that we forget ourselves, forget our aims, forget what we were doing or thinking and so on. But this is not all that we begin to understand.  We begin to realize what it means to awaken to some extent and what it means to be asleep. Through self-observation we begins to feel the taste of what it might be to be more awake, more conscious of ourselves.

Self-observation is not self-remembering

Self-Observation is not Self-Remembering, but it enables a us to realize we do not remember ourselves and that most of the time we have no distinct and separate feeling of ourselves, no proper sense of ‘I’, no real consciousness of ourselves. From this we realize that we live our life in a state of sleep which people call full consciousness, almost as if in mockery, it might be thought, for it is in this so-called state of full consciousness that people behave as they do to one another and even kill each other without realizing what they are doing.

Our need to awaken

Look at today. What is the real explanation of what is happening in the world? The real explanation is that people are not conscious. They are asleep and acting in their sleep. And even if they feel something of this, they do not know how to awaken from the sleep or what they must do. Yet since the creation of the world we have been told we are asleep and must awaken. How many times is this said in the Gospels: “Awake, watch, sleep not!”

But people do not understand it or they think it is a metaphor whereas it is literally true. If people awakened from sleep, if they began to remember themselves, the whole of life would change. And nothing can change in life unless people begin to awaken.

It is necessary to say all this before coming to the practical side of Self-Remembering because everyone who wishes to understand this Work must have, as it were, a background of principles from which they can think about details. This Work teaches as a principle that we are asleep and that our greatest and most important task is to awaken.

* * *

Seeing our sleep

We must first come to the realization that we are asleep and that we do not remember ourselves, before anything else can happen. And we can only gain this realization by means of observing ourselves uncritically at all times and over a long period. But in this system we are taught to observe certain particular things in ourselves which especially prevent us from beginning to awaken.

Awakening, you must understand, takes a very long time and all the first stages of the Work are to do with gradually awakening. One of the most important things to observe in oneself is the state of being identified. We cannot remember ourselves if we are identified. And the more we are identified with ourselves, the less can we remember ourselves. We are identified with pictures of ourselves, we are identified with our dreams, we are identified with every ‘I’ that for a moment takes the stage, we are identified with every mood, we are identified with every emotion, we are identified especially with our negative emotions, and we are identified with our suffering.

Identified with our suffering

And it must be mentioned here that this latter form of identifying must be struggled against from the very first moment of practical work on oneself. We must give up our suffering from the very beginning. All the thousand and one forms of identifying must become subjects of self-study through self-observation. Now if we observe that we are about to identify with, say, some negative state and at the same time remember the Work and our aim not to identify, we may separate from this state completely.

We will then probably experience a moment of Self-Remembering either then or later on. What has happened? I will try to explain. When you have practiced self-observation for a certain time, you are more conscious of your inner state and in consequence you have, as it were, a moment of choice. You can see what is going to happen before it takes place.

Bringing the Work up to the point of incoming impressions

Self-Observation clears a space in your mind so that you can see things coming in and going out. If the energy which was about to go into a negative emotion is prevented from doing so, it may pass on and may create a moment of Self-Remembering. All this means that you have brought the Work up to the point of incoming impressions.

Ordinarily impressions do not pass on because at the point where impressions enter the human machine, they fall on a network of long-established associations. After a time, at a certain age, people no longer experience new impressions. This is not because impressions are not new, for they are always new every moment but because they always “ring up”, as it were, the same associations and produce the same reactions.

Living in our associations makes our inner life empty and dead

People then live only in their associations and this makes their inner life almost empty, almost dead. If you wish to keep young in yourself you must take in the food of new impressions. That means, you must actually work on impressions as they enter and prevent certain of them from falling on the old places.

We cannot change life, but we can change the way impressions fall on us

Life is impressions coming in. You cannot change life. But you can change the way impressions fall on you. Take, for example, the question of aim. Everyone must have aim in this Work. You must think about it. Aim can be smaller and greater. But you should know what your aim is, great or small, at any one moment. It gives shape and meaning to your inner life.

Now if you bring your aim into consciousness–that is, do not forget it–at the point where life is acting on you through incoming impressions and prevents you from reacting to any of these impressions in a way that is contrary to your aim, you are then in a state of Self-Awareness. Your mechanical reaction is prevented by your conscious act.

The first conscious shock

This action belongs to the First Conscious Shock. It is, so to speak, the beginning of it. The energy which would have gone into a mechanical reaction, through mechanical associations, can now pass on and become transformed first into finer energy (Hydrogen Re 24). This is emotional. The result will be that either then or later you will “see something” or you will understand something in a new way–behind the network of associations. Impressions will, in fact, begin to fall directly on centers.

Self-remembering changes how impressions are taken in

Impressions that are taken in in a state of Self-Remembering become emotional. Even the simplest thing can become interesting or beautiful and reflect some meaning you had never perceived.

Now as regards the question: “Which self must I remember when I try to remember myself?” First, remember the self or ‘I’ that knows what your aim is. This brings all the ‘I’s in you that wish to awaken into consciousness.

Second, there is such a thing as real ‘I’ in us. But we are always being what we are not, substituting one ‘I’ after another in place of the trace of real ‘I’ that we have access to. Trying to feel the pure feeling of ‘I’ doing this, ‘I’ saying this, ‘I’ sitting here, ‘I’ being negative, and so on, can become sometimes a form of Self-Remembering. Full Self-Remembering is consciousness of real ‘I’ which stands above all the ‘I’s artificially created by life in us.

Something higher than yourself

Finally, you cannot remember yourself unless you feel that there is something higher than yourself. Unless you feel this, your Self-Remembering will always lead you into False Personality.

Many other things could be said about the First Conscious Shock, which has many sides to it, but enough has been given for discussion and questions. But you must all keep to the paper in your discussion and this will be an exercise in Self-Remembering for you.

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