NOTES FROM BOB SABATH: INNER PRACTICE AND MOVEMENTS EXERCISES
There are many ways to self-remember and there is a difference between an act of self-remembering and a state of self-remembering.
If you are new to this work, I know that the readings will be a challenge. There is a very precise vocabulary and language that the Work uses, and it will take a while to become familiar and comfortable with the language itself. In addition, the work of self-remembering is never fully defined in the work in an exact way. We are learning inductively about self-remembering from clues given in the commentaries.
So be patient and kind to yourself as you plunge into the deep end of fourth way teaching and inner practices. Take as much as you can understand and try to work with it in a practical way.
I think of self-remembering as a kind of “centering prayer” done in the cell of my daily life. The core gestures are going away, returning and surrendering. In a daily sit, I do this with my thoughts and feelings — I disappear in my thoughts, I let them go, and I come back. In daily life, I also see this rhythm: I notice that I have “gone way” and am not inhabiting myself. I see this and come back to myself and to the Holy One.
One of the paradoxes of this work is that seeing our sleep is one of our first acts of waking up. Noticing that we have “gone away” and are not self-remembering, seeing our inability (or even desire) to self-remember, paradoxically is one of the first acts of self-remembering.
So let’s experiment with the many ways we can self-remember this week. We go way. We come back. We befriend this rhythm of our life as holy and lawful. Maybe we celebrate our coming back with the core inner practice that we have been working on for the past two weeks, or just one part of that practice like a conscious breath or two. Or maybe we just take a gesture from movement #39 and bow our head silently or cross our arms. Maybe we just say aloud or to ourselves, “There goes Bob again.” Or just say to ourselves “I am not Bob” or “What in the world is Bob up to again!” (Of course, you are using your own name here!)
We need to come back with all three centers — and feel the coming back to ourselves in our whole body. When we see that we are “gone”, we “re-inhabit ourselves” and come back. Not just once, but many times during the day. We breathe our lives throughout the day — in and out. We need to notice our dispersion, see what has taken us, and feel and sense our return.
Inscribed in a special script above the walls of the study house in Prieure France where Gurdjieff worked with his students in the early 1900’s are thirty-eight aphorisms which begin:
A full state of self-remembering, at least at this point in my understanding, does not mean that we do not ever “go away.” We don’t breathe just with an in-breath. There is an inhalation and an exhalation. A state of self-remembering is consciously breathing our daily life in the constant act of returning and surrendering to what life brings, and befriending this holy coming and going — using our falling as fuel for inner work. We will go more into this in Week Four.
In reality, we are all beginners, and we need each other. This is not just inner work that we do for our own private entertainment or inner transformation. It is Work for the sake of others as well. It is not just our own lives that depend on this Work, but the lives of those we care most about and are most deeply connected to.
We will continue with our core inner work practice that was given the first week, but this week will engage the practice in the middle of the day, at lunch time or while we begin to prepare for lunch or during lunch preparation. If you wish, continue the practice as well at the start of the day and at the end of the day as well.
As a reminder, this is the core practice that we will use for the next 12 weeks:
The exercise itself is a form of self-remembering — returning from “all these other things” back to ourselves. 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.
Continue to practice Movement#39 if that helps you. Parts of Movement #39 can be used as a bodily form of Self-Remembering.
Post your reflections on Week Three reading and your own inner-life experiments in the Discussion Forum for Week Three.
If you have not yet introduced yourself, you can post something about yourself in Introductions and Intentions.
GOSPEL OF THOMAS AND WEEKLY LECTIONARY READINGS
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 three.
Gospel of Thomas – Logion 18
His student said to him,
“So, tell us, then, what our end and destiny will be?”
“Have you already discovered your origin
so that you are now free to seek after your end?
It is only at your source that you will find your destiny.
Blessed are those who come to stand
in their place of origination,
for it is there that they will know their end–
never tasting death.”
LECTIONARY FOR EPIPHANY 3B, January 21, 2018
Mark 1:14-20 (New International Version)
Psalm 62:5-12 (New International Version)
WEEK THREE READING FROM NICOLL’S PSYCHOLOGICAL COMMENTARIES
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. 534-538
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 three. 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!
SELF-OBSERVATION AND SELF-REMEMBERING: Part 2
In this second paper we come to answering the question that was quoted in the last paper. I will repeat the first part of this 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 . . .”
The act of Self-Remembering is different from the State of Self-Remembering
The act of Self-Remembering is a conscious effort made in order to remember oneself. The state of Self-Remembering is the result of the act and the quality of the state of Self-Remembering depends on the quality of the act–i.e.: the quality of the effort made to remember oneself.
Let us try to illustrate this in an easy way. The act of taking my guitar and striking notes on it is different from the state of being able to play music on it. However, I will have to make an effort to take the guitar and play on it before I can reach the state of being able to play music.
Again, if I want to behave better or have better manners the act of trying to is not the same as being in the state of having better behavior or manners. If I make right effort, I may reach the state that I wish to attain, and the result will be according to the quality of my effort.
The Act of Self-Remembering
The act of trying to remember myself is to endeavor by trial and failure to reach some new state of oneself called the State of Self-Remembering. If already I know how to reach this state then the act or effort that I make will put me into this state. But I cannot expect at first by performing the act of Self-Remembering to reach the State. It will only be by long work, by innumerable acts, that I gain any success in reaching the state that I aim at reaching.
No progress unless and until you remember yourself
Now let us take the second parts of the question in which it is said:
“There can be no progress unless and until you remember yourself. . .”
Unless you can lift yourself up by Self-Remembering you do not receive help
I think that it would be best to say here that unless you can lift yourself up by Self-Remembering you do not receive help, and that unless you receives help you cannot reach a different level of being. But at the same time unless you prepare yourself by means of Self-Observation and trying to separate from what the Work teaches are wrong functions, you cannot receive the influences coming from Higher Centers.
You have to prepare your lower centers so that they can hear the voices of Higher Centers which are always speaking to us and always trying to change us but which we cannot hear.
Feeling the absence of Higher Centers
I do not mean that the Higher Centers are trying to change us exactly, because they are neutral, not violent or accusatory. You feel the absence of Higher Centers in the general feeling of uncomfortableness as if you had forgotten something you once knew. Unless lower centers can begin to hear Higher Centers there is no possibility of getting help for evolution.
Real ‘I” belongs to Higher Centers
Remember, you are created a self-developing organism, but you must receive help from wisdom teaching in order to evolve. You are disconnected from Real ‘I’ which belongs to Higher Centers and can transmit their meaning. Real ‘I’ understands the language of Higher Centers but false ‘I’ does not. Real ‘I’ is what you are and why you exist: or, rather, why you exist is to come into contact with Real ‘I’.
In one of the wisdom writings of India it is said: “If you fail to reach God you are continually re-born into existence. And so you go round and round in the whole cycle of possible births until you understand why you exist.”
Everyone is created with a possibility of making contact with Real ‘I’
Since everyone has Real ‘I’ in them but at a higher, that is, a deeper, level than that from which they ordinarily live and think and feel, everyone is created with a possibility of making contact with this Real ‘I’ of which they are nothing but a foolish reflection or imitation.
Everyone has an eternal center of gravity, but, being swayed by the senses, by the feeling that they are nothing but their bodies and by the impact of impressions coming from external life, they get far away from this center of gravity.
Self-Remembering is the beginning of the attempt to bring us back into ourselves
Self-Remembering is the beginning of the attempt to bring us back into ourselves and so into our real center of gravity. That is why a very external person who is simply governed by the effect he or she makes on other people has a very great difficulty in understanding what Self-Remembering means, and indeed what this Work means.
On one occasion G. said: “Behind Real ‘I’ lies God.”
The way back to our real origin starts with Observing ‘I’
But the beginning of all this way back to our real origin starts with Observing ‘I’. This means of course that it starts with the Work itself, for Observing ‘I’ must know about what to observe and do it from what the Work teaches.
If you have a wrong mirror, a wrong Observing ‘I’, some social ‘I’, it is not in the Work-sense Observing ‘I’. But if you can establish in yourself a point of observation from what you understand of what the Work teaches you to observe, you are on the first rung of the ladder that reaches ultimately to Real ‘I’.
Establishing Observing ‘I’ is a very difficult matter with long struggle and a great deal of failure
People think it is easy to establish Observing ‘I’ in this real Work-sense. I would say it is a very difficult matter and requires a long struggle, a great deal of inner sincerity and a great deal of failure. When this Observing ‘I’ is established it collects other ‘I’s round it that wish to work, that wish to understand better, that wish to find the secret of one’s existence.
Everyone really has this secret feeling about themselves but they do not put it into operation; they do not know what to do and so it simply becomes a source of negative emotion. When Deputy-Steward is formed it may attract Steward and finally Real ‘I’.
The ladder of the Work
But these are words of very great density of meaning. To understand anything of this ladder of the Work takes a very long time and very deep reflection. For example, it needs a great deal of thinking what the Work is about, and re-thinking about it and seeing the state of one’s being and re-seeing it.
It requires a great deal of inner realization, it requires continual access of valuation, continual renewing of valuation, a continual re-understanding of what one understands, a seeing of where one is and what one is.
Even the simplest sayings of the Work transform themselves into deeper and deeper meanings
And in this connection I might say that all of you who are following the path of the Work, and have long ago understood that it is not something on the blackboard, will find that even the simplest sayings of the Work transform themselves into deeper and deeper meanings. You will find, in short, that this Work and all its brief formulations could only come from a source that knows and understands far more than we do.
Now as regards the passage in the question we are discussing: “Yet the least of these (acts of Self-Remembering) is greater than–i.e. on a level above–the fullest Self-Observation.”
An act of Self-Remembering is greater than an act of Self-Observation
I find some difficulty in answering it. It means to begin with that an act of Self-Remembering is greater than an act of Self-Observation. I would say, to begin with, that speaking of fullest Self-Observation is beside the point. Full Self-Observation could only come with an enormous increase of consciousness and in that sense would be the same as that increased consciousness of the State of Self-Remembering, Self-Awareness, Self-Consciousness. To be fully aware of oneself would correspond to the Third State of Consciousness.
An act of Self-Remembering for us, as we are, is a very weak thing
An act of Self-Remembering for us, as we are, is a very weak thing. An act of Self-Observation may be more distinct. The two are not on the same level, but a state of full Self-Observation would belong to the level above us. But how could we at our level of consciousness expect to observe everything fully in ourselves? How could we, for example, fully observe the whole of our lives, altogether, or indeed how could we observe at our level of consciousness all that is going on in every part of a center?
At the point of death we may pass into a different state of consciousness
You know there are many stories of people who when partially drowned remember the whole of their lives. I think these stories are probably quite true. I believe that at the point of death we may pass into a different state of consciousness. In the terms of this Work we would call this the Third State of Consciousness–i.e. the State of Self- Remembering, Self-Consciousness, or Self-Awareness.
Then, no doubt, you would have full observation of yourself–yes, and full observation of yourself in a way you never dreamed of. But, as we are, Self-Observation is a very small thing, but quite essential, like carrying a tiny light through a big dark house and seeing one thing after another.
Taking inner photographs of yourself
After a time memory–that is, Work-memory–or memory created through conscious effort in Self-Observation–may connect together all these separate small illuminations into something bigger. This means that you begin to take photographs of yourself–that is, you begin to observe yourself over a period of time, altogether.
You begin to see patterns in the carpet of your life
From this moment you can begin to catch a glimpse of your Chief Feature; you can begin to see strands running through your life. You begin to see patterns in the carpet of your life. You notice that in the three definitions of the Third State of Consciousness the term Self-Awareness connects with full Self-Observation.
The Work will never allow a person to see more than he or she can stand
I find this part of the question difficult to answer because it assumes that full observation is a possibility at our level of consciousness. If you at your present level of consciousness had a moment of full observation you would probably go mad, because it would mean that you saw all the inner contradictions in yourself. To reach such an insight requires long work and the Work will never allow a person to see more than he or she can stand.
We cannot attain a higher degree of consciousness just in a moment
I think we all make a mistake in thinking we can attain a higher degree of consciousness just in a moment. Consider how long it took you to learn to read or write. One hears the Work for a long time, just as a child sees his letters for a long time, but it takes many years before it can speak or write. A curious thing here, if I may add, is that suddenly a child finds it can read and just in the same way in the Work suddenly you find you understand something you have heard time after time. This means you are ready for it, you have earned it.
You can protect yourself psychologically only by Self-Remembering
Now to take the last part of the question: “All work on yourself below that level is preparatory to progress towards Consciousness. Further–you can protect yourself psychologically only by Self-Remembering.”
I have no comment to make on this part of the question but it requires to be understood. The phrasing is right. To be protected psychologically from the external scene of life one must remember oneself.
If you hold onto your story, you will not be able to remember yourself
This means that one must find something to take the place of identifying with all that goes on in life. If you take life as the whole business, and think you are nothing but your body, you will not be able to remember yourself.
If you think your eyes see, and not that something sees through them, you will not be able to remember yourself. If you think that everything you do and feel and think belongs to your body you will not be able to remember yourself. You will then be like religious people who think that heaven is something above and hell something below them, and do not understand that heaven and hell are in them–in themselves.
You take as reality the messages coming from the external senses, and no doubt you will think that Real ‘I’ is something that exists far away in the visible stars. You will not understand that it exists in you at a deeper level of your understanding and that you can only reach it by understanding all that this Work says about separating yourself from wrong activities going on mechanically every day, that keep you glued to the most external, most superficial side of yourself, that side that is governed by everything that happens to you outside, that side that depends for its well-being on how people behave towards you.
And this is inevitable as long as you have no inner behavior that you are following. The Work is about this inner behavior which gives you a center of gravity independent of external things, but, I repeat, if you think you are the same as your body and that your eyes see and your ears hear, and if you have no sense that it is you who see through your eyes and you who hear through your ears and that there is something different in you from your physical senses–and, in fact, something higher–then you will not be able to remember yourself.
If you are a natural person, a person who believes only in the reality that the senses show us, who believes that the natural world with all its events is the cause of everything, you will never be able to remember yourself.
Nor will you be able to understand the Ray of Creation, nor the Side-Octave from the Sun. You will never be able to understand that influences are acting on this Earth coming from a higher level and acting on yourself as well, and that you receive these influences according to the quality of your being.
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