Week 2

Fourth Way Wisdom Work: Self-Remembering
Week Two


We will continue with our core inner work practice that was given last week, but this week will engage the practice at the close of the day, at bedtime or right before settling into bed.  If you wish, continue the practice as well at the start of the day.

As a reminder, this is the core practice that we will use for the next 12 weeks:

  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.

In addition to this practice, this we we are introducing one of the Gurdjieff Movements, #39.  Gurdjieff was a teacher of sacred dance, and many of the inner states that we seek to cultivate can best be learned through posture and body movement.

Movement #39 has simple movements, and again can be used as a form of Self-Remembering.  It takes about 5 minutes to complete, if you go through two cycles of movements, and only a couple of minutes if you go through one cycle.

You can download Movement #39 Teaching as a PDF or visit the Movement #39 Teaching web site page.

You can download Movement #39 Teaching as a PDF or visit the Movement #39 Teaching web site page.

Post your own reflections on our core weekly practice and this new movement exercise in the Core Inner Work Practice Discussion Forum.

Post your own reflections on our core weekly practice and this new movement exercise in the Core Inner Work Practice Discussion Forum.

If you have not yet introduced yourself, you can post something about yourself in Introductions and Intentions.


Do you see any connections between these scripture readings and the Nicoll commentary reading for this week?  Post any reflection in the work group discussion for week two.

Gospel of Thomas – Logion 17

Yeshua says…

What your own eyes cannot see,
your human ears do not hear,
your physical hands cannot touch,
and what is inconceivable to the human mind–
that I will give to you!



John 1:43-51 (New International Version)

  1. The next day Jesus decided to leave for Galilee. Finding Philip, he said to him, “Follow me.”
  2. Philip, like Andrew and Peter, was from the town of Bethsaida.
  3. Philip found Nathanael and told him, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote–Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.”
  4. “Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” Nathanael asked.
    “Come and see,” said Philip.
  5. When Jesus saw Nathanael approaching, he said of him, “Here truly is an Israelite in whom there is no deceit.”
  6. “How do you know me?” Nathanael asked.
    Jesus answered, “I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you.”
  7. Then Nathanael declared, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the king of Israel.”
  8. Jesus said, “You believe because I told you I saw you under the fig tree. You will see greater things than that.”
  9. He then added, “Very truly I tell you, you will see ‘heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on’ the Son of Man.”

Psalm 139:1-6, 13-18 (New International Version)

  1. You have searched me, Lord,
    and you know me.
  2. You know when I sit and when I rise;
    you perceive my thoughts from afar.
  3. You discern my going out and my lying down;
    you are familiar with all my ways.
    the Lord thunders over the mighty waters.
  4. Before a word is on my tongue
    you, Lord, know it completely.
  5. You hem me in behind and before,
    and you lay your hand upon me.
  6. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
    too lofty for me to attain.
  1. For you created my inmost being;
    you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
  2. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
    your works are wonderful,
    I know that full well.
  3. My frame was not hidden from you
    when I was made in the secret place,
    when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
  4. Your eyes saw my unformed body;
    all the days ordained for me were written in your book
    before one of them came to be.
  5. How precious to me are your thoughts, God!
    How vast is the sum of them!
  6. Were I to count them,
    they would outnumber the grains of sand—
    when I awake, I am still with you.


The following reading is taken from Maurice Nicoll, Psychological Commentaries on the Teaching of Gurdjieff and Ouspensky, Vol. 2, 1996 Edition: Samuel Weiser Inc., pp. 527-533

NOTE: This week’s reading is edited to reflect more inclusive language. Post any reflections from this reading in the work group discussion for week two. This is an unusually long reading for the week. You may want to work on bits of it each day, rather than in one big gulp!


Our understanding is relative to our level of being

A person’s Understanding of the Work is relative to his Level of Being. You may know the ideas of the Work. But Knowledge does not give Understanding: to know is not to understand. The Knowledge of this Work is of a kind that can act on Being and as a result give rise to Understanding. Understanding is not Knowledge and Understanding is not Being. Knowledge and Being together, in conjunction, give Understanding.

If my Being is such that it wills what I know, the result will eventually be increasing Understanding. If it does not will what I know, I will have Knowledge only. But if some ‘I’s wish to follow the Knowledge of this Work, their will to do it will pass into Understanding on a small scale compared with what would happen if the whole Being were to act as one and will as one to apply the Knowledge of the Work and live what it says.

Real Will

That would be Real Will, which is beyond us. So we have to start where we are, with all our separate and conflicting wills, and maintain an inner steadfastness amidst the confusions that take place in our mixed Being. That is, we must value the Work and keep Work ‘I’s in us alive and protect them from all kinds of crude, rough or cynical or negative ‘I’s.

No struggle, no work

Of course, unless there was this struggle, there would be no work. To work means to work: and work means effort. Work is the effort to connect one’s Knowledge of the Work with one’s Being–that is, the effort to bring what one knows into relation with what one is.

For this, self-observation is obviously necessary in order to notice what one is. And again, for this, Knowledge is necessary, to show what to observe. This is a plain and logical sequence –namely, that to know what one is one must observe oneself and in order to know what to observe one must have Knowledge.

A higher level of consciousness is possible

But the Work teaches a Knowledge not only of what we have to observe– as, for example–negative states–but what we must do–as, for example, practice non-identifying with ourselves and especially with False Personality.

But all this teaching is in view of the supreme idea of the Work and indeed of all esotericism in the past–i.e. that there is a higher level of consciousness possible for Humanity that you can reach if you clean your machine and get rid of many useless things that complicate your life and keep you in a state of sleep.

Only in the state of Self-Remembering can influences reach you

And here comes in the most important instruction given: not only must you know and observe, but you must remember yourself. And you must do this because only in that state of consciousness called the state of Self-Remembering can influences reach you that can act on your Being, for without help you can do practically nothing, or will only effect one thing at the expense of another.

Now ‘I’s that wish to work and connect the Knowledge of the Work with their lives and feel unhappy if they do not and ill if they do not keep awake–these ‘I’s change in their Understanding. They must be fed so that they can see things in a new way. That is, one has to re-think, re-visit, re-interpret the ideas.

Merely to know one must observe or self-remember is nothing

Merely to know one must observe or self-remember is nothing: the matter must be gone over again and again. One must return to first principles again and again. So the fresh discussion of what has been discussed more than once is something absolutely necessary.

There can be no progress unless and until you remember yourself

A question was asked at the last meeting held here, as to Self- Observation and Self-Remembering. This is the question:

“As I understand it there is a difference in quality between the State of Self-Remembering and an Act of Self-Remembering and many degrees of, or levels of, quality between Acts of Self- Remembering; yet the least of these is greater than–i.e. on a level above–the fullest Self-Observation.”

“There can be no progress unless and until you remember yourself. All work on yourself below that level is preparatory to progress towards Consciousness. Further–you can protect yourself psychologically only by Self-Remembering. ”

“How can one evaluate and through evaluation increase the power to value, not for what it can give but for what it is — this state of Self-Remembering?”

The observation of oneself is not the same thing as remembering oneself

I will begin by speaking in a general way about Self-Observation and Self-Remembering. The observation of oneself is not the same thing as remembering oneself. On one occasion Gurdjieff, speaking of Self-Remembering, said: “Which self do you wish to remember?” This gives one clue to the meaning of remembering oneself.

On another occasion he said that we are sub-normal because we are not conscious at the place of incoming impressions. “At this point,” he said, “where external impressions enter, it is necessary to create something.”


Let us now pass to the idea of Self-Observation and return later to the question of Self-Remembering.

We believe we have always observed ourselves

I was once asked by someone this question: “I do not understand what the Work means when it says that we do not observe ourselves. I have always observed myself.”

No doubt, it is true to say that a person to a certain extent observes himself or herself. People look into a mirror and this mirror is constructed from what they have been taught–that is, what they have acquired by their upbringing as to right behavior, correct manners, the right things to wear, the right things to say, the right people to know.

This acquired part of us is the Personality and the formation of the Personality in everybody is a question of the period, the environment in which one is born, school influences, the fashion of the day, the nation to which one belongs and the standards which it sets. Into this mirror everybody gazes–and indeed it is not only psychological but it is also the actual literal mirror.

The Work mirror is different from the Life mirror

But this mirror is not the same mirror as the Work teaches us to gaze into: the Work-mirror is something quite different. It has, so to speak, nothing to do with whether you eat peas with a knife or put your elbows on the table or wear the right tie or use the right lipstick or know the right people.

The Work-mirror refers to a quite different kind of Self-Observation. Through the Work-mirror it is possible to begin to see what one really is apart from what one appears to be and pretends to be. However, at first the Work-mirror may be all wrong. That always arises when we do not see what the Work is about and when Magnetic Center is weak. We still look at ourselves from the life-mirror and try to connect our acquired virtues, that we appreciate through our self-love, with the Work-mirror.

Some of you have reflected on the Knowledge this Work teaches from which we have to observe ourselves. If so, you will probably have felt that it seems to teach something that is remote from the life we are leading.

What we need to observe

For example, what connection is there with our ordinary life when we are told to observe the work of centers, to observe three distinct persons in us, and then to observe many different ‘I’s in us, to observe our state of sleep, to observe internal considering and the making of accounts against others, to observe negative emotions, to observe identifying, to observe our ignorance, to observe the Level of our Being, to observe how we never remember ourselves and so on?

It all seems remote, difficult to grasp; yet, from all these ideas the real Work-mirror is formed. No one can look into this Work-mirror unless he or she has acquired Knowledge of what this Work is about, and loves it.

The Work teaches us what we need to observe

The Work teaches us from what points of view we must observe ourselves. It picks out certain things that we have to notice in ourselves. Imagine being told to go into an enormous store and being told merely to observe it. You would not know what to observe. But supposing you are told to go into this store and observe a few special things only: then you will know what you have to take notice of. It is this that the Work teaches.

The Work teaches how to approach yourself, through self-observation, what to notice and what to work against. In this respect it gives very definite directions which, however difficult they may be to follow, are yet very definite. If you love the Work–that is, if you value it–then you will be able to assimilate the knowledge that it teaches, according to your level.

If you assimilate, even to a small extent, the knowledge that it teaches, you will begin to possess a mirror in which to look at yourself. For a long time we have poor mirrors that distort things. After a time, we may realize that we have wrong attitude to the Work. But it is exactly this realization that can give you a new mirror. Then you begin to see yourself better; you begin to see how you have treated the Work so far.

Self-Observation without definite knowledge as to what to observe will lead nowhere

Now I will repeat again that Self-Observation without definite knowledge as to what to observe will lead nowhere in the Work. Ordinary, mechanical self-observation may lead you into social life, but this is not the same thing. The mirror of social life is one thing and into this all people gaze. The Work says nothing against this.

But it speaks of another mirror having another quality. The ancient inscription on the Greek temple: “Know thyself,” is by itself quite ineffective. How can you know yourself?

We have to know ourselves in a new way

People all think they know themselves already but the Work teaches that we have to know ourselves in a new way and from certain angles, and the object of this particular kind of knowing of oneself is to make it possible to separate from a number of useless things that go on in us so that we can begin to touch influences coming from a higher level that will give us thoughts and feelings and understanding that we have a right to have, but with which we have lost contact owing to our state of sleep.

Awakening to finer influences

All wisdom teaching is about awakening to far finer influences–yes, here down on this Earth. Mr. Ouspensky once said: “Here now on this Earth you can be under different laws, different influences and know and understand what they mean, provided you work on yourself.”

I remember when Mr. Ouspensky said this many people were astonished because they thought that being in a better state meant being in a better world, that no doubt they might reach after death. As you all know, the general idea taught in the Gospels that one must die to be re-born is taken to mean physical death and being born into some other world called heaven.

The Work and the Gospels teach, however, that if we can reach higher influences that are already playing on us now we will be in a different state of understanding. For example, the Work says that we will no longer be under the Law of Accident–and negative emotions especially put us under the Law of Accident. However, this belongs to another talk.

Higher centers exist in us fully formed

To continue: the whole Work is about putting our ordinary centers into a right state so that they can transmit intelligently the influences of higher centers which exist in us fully formed and are continually at work, but to which we cannot respond.

“Why,” asked someone, “is this so?” “Because,” Mr. Ouspensky said, “we are continually identified with a thousand and one useless things both in life and in ourselves.” Mr. Ouspensky always especially emphasized the importance of working on the negative part of Emotional Center.

We identify with our negative emotions more than with anything else

He said on one occasion in so many words: “We identify with our negative emotions more than with anything else. It seems as if we felt we had a right to be negative whereas I teach you the very reverse–i.e. that we have a right not to be negative.”

When we are negative it is as if we had a blood-vessel cut, pouring out our blood. As long as the negative part of our Emotional Center, which we were not born with but have acquired from others, is allowed to exist unchallenged, so long is it impossible for our Emotional Center to feel the influences of the Higher Emotional Center.

The observation and separation from our negative states

For this reason the observation of our negative states and the separation from them is one of the most important sides of practical work. The transformation of negative emotion belongs to the Second Conscious Shack and here the whole Work comes in and the whole evaluation of it.

You may be negative but you must feel that it is not you that is negative but It. This is the beginning of inner separation, of not identifying with negative states, of not identifying with oneself.

To resume what we were speaking about–you can understand that to be taught the knowledge that you are taught in this Work about negative emotions is one thing, but as mere knowledge it is useless. It remains theoretical only–in the memory.

You must connect the knowledge of this Work with Self-Observation

You have to apply the knowledge to yourself and this is only possible through observing yourself. Unless you connect the knowledge of this Work with Self-Observation, nothing can happen to you. The Work will remain purely theoretical and not practical. The function of Self-Observation, therefore, is something that can be understood quite logically. Its object is clear.

Life mirror and work mirror get mixed up

However, at first Self-Observation is very crude, very irregular, and mixed up with life-observation of oneself–that is, the Work-mirror is mixed up with the life-mirror, and this is inevitable. In fact, for a long time, the Work-mirror is little else than the life-mirror. It is, as it were, connected with the neutralizing force of life and not the neutralizing force of the Work, which latter force comes from an entirely different source.

As the evaluation of the Work deepens the two mirrors become separated and in that case where you may derive a great deal of flattery and self-delight from the one mirror you do not see the same image in the other, and this causes inner trouble. Yet I say the two mirrors are not antagonistic. They reflect different aspects of oneself.

Both in Work and in life

In the 4th Way, which is this Work, we have to be both in the Work and in life, and the 4th Way does not make a contradiction between life and Work. Some sides belong to life and others to the Work. It is more like making a right arrangement of the different ‘I’s and putting them in their right place and having the strength not to see merely opposites. It is the distinction of ‘I’s by inner taste. We need both the Work and life, and from both we can get force. It is like two rooms, quite distinct, and yet opening into one another, both being part of the same house of oneself.

No one is told in this Work to cut oneself off from life, to go into a monastery or into the desert. And yet the two are entirely different and their force comes from two different sides altogether.

Gurdjieff once said in so many words: “Everything this Work teaches you will help your life and help you to attain your life-aim.” Just imagine a person in the Work who could pass into the affairs of life and through inner work had learned not to identify–you can understand that such a person might attain some aim in life far more easily than a mechanical negative individual.

Evaluation of the Work

But in order to do so you would continually have to feel the Work to such an extent that your evaluation of the Work was far more intense and real to you than anything you valued or attained in life.

Now we identify through the unobserved petty feelings of ourselves which cause us to make endless internal accounts and build up endless negative systems in us. These negative systems, once formed, are very difficult to deal with. On this level we do everything in a pseudo way, from our self-love, our self-liking, to advance ourselves in some way, to merit praise, and so we are very easily hurt and dejected.

Remove this stimulus and we scarcely exist, and may seem to have no objective. This is being a machine. All this basis of self-feeling does not lead far in the Work eventually. It is only vanquished by a sense of something greater than ourselves.


You must remember yourself but cannot remember yourself

This brings us to the question of Self-Remembering which is so much emphasized in this Work as the constantly necessary accompaniment to self-observation. “You,” said Gurdjieff, “should always remember yourself but as you are you have not the force and even cannot remember that you have to remember yourself.”

On another occasion Mr. Ouspensky said at the beginning of his teaching in London when people were continually badgering him with questions as to what they should do–whether they should smoke or not, eat or not, and so on.

The most important thing is to remember yourself

“The most important thing is to remember yourself. You can do what you like so long as you remember yourself.”

This sounded very strange to many of us. It seemed to mean that you could do anything you liked — yes, as long as you remembered yourself. Supposing you give way to your appetites and become identified, say, with your food, and then tell yourself that you are allowed to do anything–the Work says so.

But does it say it like that? It says you can do anything you like as long as you remember yourself and it is obvious enough that if you are identified with your food you are not remembering yourself.

Self-Remembering puts us into a different state of consciousness

Self-Remembering puts us into a different state of consciousness. In that state of consciousness you cannot do certain things without going to sleep at once and you can see it happening–that is, you can see yourself becoming identified.

Or, to put the matter differently, if you do certain things and remember yourself at the same time, you will do them in quite a different way. When you begin to understand the subtlety of this remark: “You can do what you like as long as you remember yourself,” you will see that it really means that you cannot do what you like, at least in the ordinary way that you do it.

One form of Self-Remembering is feeling the sense of “I doing this”

One form of Self-Remembering is feeling the sense of “I doing this” or “I saying this”. If when you are angry and speaking internally or externally in a bad way you feel the sense of ‘I’ saying this, it will completely change the situation. You realize that “It” is saying it–your machine.

Now let us once more go through the things said about Self- Remembering.

I am not Bob

Let us say to ourselves: “I am not me”. It will be best if I take my own case–suppose I can say: “I am not Nicoll and Nicoll is not me” or say that Mr. Bob Sabath says to himself: “I am not Bob and Bob is not me” or Ms. Cynthia Bourgeault says: “I am not Cynthia and Cynthia is not me”.

If we can say this to ourselves rightly it will give us a very strange feeling as to who we are. Certainly this feeling is connected with a sense of the dissolving of one’s Personality. Yet as you know this is one of the objects of this Work expressed in the great formulation that Personality must be made passive so that the real part of one–the Essence–can grow.

What is Bob up to?

But it can only be through a long gradual process of insight. I remember Mr. Ouspensky saying to me: “Why don’t you say sometimes: ‘What is Nicoll up to?'” Now supposing I could always say to myself: “What is Nicoll up to?” and Bob could say “What is Bob up to?” and Cynthia: “What is Cynthia up to?” and all of you could say correspondingly the same thing in some real way occasionally, it would mean then that there was some degree of inner separation, some awareness that one is not the same as one’s acquired Personality, with all its acquired prides and buffers–this artificial figure that life has built up, and that one takes as oneself, not knowing any better.

The beginning of Self-Remembering

Such a feeling, such an inner sense, is the beginning of Self-Remembering. When I try to remember myself I do not remember Nicoll: I do not wish to remember Nicoll, but of course he is always there. But if I have no feeling that I am not Nicoll (although actually I am a slave to Nicoll) when I remember myself I will simply remember Nicoll. Of course, Nicoll will always remember Nicoll mechanically and certainly Nicoll is satisfied with Nicoll and no doubt regards him as a marvelous person.

Remembering the wrong self

In that case, Self-Remembering would only increase one’s self-satisfaction–that is, it would enhance Personality. But this is not Self-Remembering, or, let us say, it is remembering the wrong self. It is not a conscious act but a mechanical act.

Do you notice how you always justify yourselves? It is not a reaching up to something else, but an intensifying and justifying of what one is already. So it cannot lead to a change in the level of Being. It has nothing to do with Self-Remembering in the Work-sense.

It usually means there is not real self-observation–that is, self-observation done through the mirror of the Work. The Work has not yet begun to break up the Personality. One is simply taking the Work from the Personality as something added to one’s own merits, like a medal. Of course this is not the Work. The Work cannot start from the fullness of the Personality.

The realization of one’s own utter nothingness

The Work can only start when you realize you are not what you thought, not what you pretend to be. You have only to read the Sermon on the Mount to see what is meant. When the Work really strikes home, this house of cards that one takes as oneself begins to fall to bits. You know the Work speaks about the necessity of coming to the point where one realizes one’s own utter nothingness.

You cannot pretend to be nothing

This, however, is mercifully delayed and it is not something you can artificially realize. You cannot pretend to be nothing. It is very painful to see a person pretending that he or she is nothing.

Full Self-Remembering

Now Self-Remembering is connected with all this. To remember yourself simply as you are now is not Self-Remembering. Self- Remembering comes down from above and full Self-Remembering is a state of consciousness in which the Personality and all its pretenses almost cease to exist and you are, so to speak, nobody, and yet the fullness of this state, which is really bliss, makes you, for the first time, somebody.

The Fourth Way Wisdom Work group is a program of Wisdom Way of Knowing. Any errors or omissions are unintentional and will be corrected in future offerings of The Fourth Way Wisdom Work as they are called to our attention.   If you are using the links below from your phone, you will need to login with your email and password to have access to the class material.

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