Week 5

Fourth Way Wisdom Work: Self-Remembering
Week Five


“You cannot transform life, but you can begin to transform the way you take life. The first conscious shock means work on yourself in general. The point of this work is to try to give oneself this shock. Everything that is taught in this system, on the practical side, belongs to the first conscious shock … This may lead to a real moment of self-remembering.”

We are continuing a short series on transformation and self-remembering.  If you want to share with others how you are working with this week’s reading, you can post your comments in the Discussion Forum for Week Five. In particular, we may want to post about the kinds of acts or moments of self-remembering that we are discovering this week.

Continue to work on Movement #39 and the First Obligatory.  I know for most of us there will be an initial dislike of the First Obligatory.  Practice only small pieces at first, just the arms, or even just start with the right arm.  Or practice the head alone this week.  Take a fragment of the head movement, like tilting the head down, as an embodied way of coming back to yourself at some point during the day.

We will continue with our core inner work practice that was given the first week.  It might be profitable to note any “boredom” with a practice that we engage over a period of weeks.  Try to find ways to make this practice alive for yourself.  Be playful and experiment, but see if you can set at least one intentional time during the day where you practice this way of coming back to yourself — maybe a transition time during an afternoon work period.  Experiment with abbreviated forms of the practice — but enough so that all three centers are involved, and you sense and feel emotionally your presence and need for higher help.  Don’t let the words get in the way.

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 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.

We also might want to practice this exercise from G.I. Gurdjieff’s Paris Meetings 1943: “Each thing that you do, you know that you are doing it.  Five minutes in the morning and five minutes in the evening. You spend the rest of the day as usual. If you make all your efforts during these five minutes, you will see that you will obtain a result.

Beginning tomorrow morning, for five minutes try to do everything consciously. Get dressed consciously; wash your face consciously while remembering that you are washing, get dressed consciously.  Then let everything go until the evening.  When you come home, for five minutes try to do everything consciously — prepare dinner consciously, wash dishes consciously,  brush your teeth consciously.  Quality counts here, not quantity.  For just five minutes in the morning and five minutes in the evening, do everything consciously with your whole self — mind, body, feeling.

Post your reflections on Week Five reading and your own inner-life experiments in the Discussion Forum for Week Five.


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 five.

Gospel of Thomas – Logion 20

His students said to him,

“Tell us about this kingdom of yours in the heavens.
What is it like?”

Yeshua answered them,

“Let me compare it to a mustard seed,
the smallest of all seeds.
When it falls into prepared ground,
it grows into a great tree
capable of sheltering the birds of the sky.”


Mark 1:29-39 (New International Version)

  1. As soon as they left the synagogue, they went with James and John to the home of Simon and Andrew.
  2. Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they immediately told Jesus about her.
  3. So he went to her, took her hand and helped her up. The fever left her and she began to wait on them.
  4. That evening after sunset the people brought to Jesus all the sick and demon-possessed.
  5. The whole town gathered at the door,
  6. and Jesus healed many who had various diseases. He also drove out many demons, but he would not let the demons speak because they knew who he was.
  7. Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.
  8. Simon and his companions went to look for him,
  9. and when they found him, they exclaimed: “Everyone is looking for you!”
  10. Jesus replied, “Let us go somewhere else–to the nearby villages–so I can preach there also. That is why I have come.”
  11. So he traveled throughout Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and driving out demons.

Psalm 147:1-11 (New International Version)

  1. Praise the Lord.
    How good it is to sing praises to our God,
    how pleasant and fitting to praise him!
  2. The Lord builds up Jerusalem;
    he gathers the exiles of Israel.
  3. He heals the brokenhearted
    and binds up their wounds.
  4. He determines the number of the stars
    and calls them each by name.
  5. Great is our Lord and mighty in power;
    his understanding has no limit.
  6. The Lord sustains the humble
    but casts the wicked to the ground.
  7. Sing to the Lord with grateful praise;
    make music to our God on the harp.
  8. He covers the sky with clouds;
    he supplies the earth with rain
    and makes grass grow on the hills.
  9. He provides food for the cattle
    and for the young ravens when they call.
  10. His pleasure is not in the strength of the horse,
    nor his delight in the legs of the warrior;
  11. the Lord delights in those who fear him,
    who put their hope in his unfailing love.
    Praise the Lord


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. 53-55

The Idea of Transformation in the Work:
Part II

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 five. This is the second of a five parts on the idea of transformation in the work and how the work of transformation begins with Self-Remembering and the First Conscious Shock.

Personality and essence

The personality that we all acquire receives the impressions of life. But it does not transform them because it is dead. If impressions fell on essence they would be transformed because they would fall on centers.

Personality, which is the term applied to all that we acquire, (and we must acquire personality), translates impressions from every side of life in a limited and practically stereotyped way according to its quality and associations.

The personality is like a  secretary

The personality in this respect is sometimes compared in the work with a secretary who sits in the front room, dealing with everything according to his or her  own ideas. The secretary has a number of dictionaries and encyclopedias and reference books around and rings up the three centers–that is, the mental, the emotional and the physical centers–according to limited ideas. The result is that the wrong centers are nearly always being rung up. This means that incoming impressions are sent to the wrong places and produce the wrong results.

Our life depends on this secretary, who mechanically looks up things in reference books without any understanding of what they really mean and transmits them accordingly without caring what happens, but feeling only a duty to do so.

Mechanical reactions govern us

This is our inner situation. What is important to understand in this allegory is that this personality which we all acquire and must acquire begins to take charge of our lives. And it is no use imagining that this only happens to certain people. It happens to everyone. Whoever we are, we find ourselves, through self-observation, possessed of a certain small number of typical ways of reacting to the manifold impressions of incoming life. These mechanical reactions govern us.

Everyone is governed by their own set of reactions to impressions–that is, to life–whether they are a revolutionary or a conservative, or good or bad in the ordinary sense. And these reactions are their life.

Humankind is mechanical

Humankind is mechanical in this sense. You have formed in yourself a number of reactions which you take as yourself and your life experiences are the result of them. If you can relax enough physically, and drop away mentally from all ideas of yourself (which is mental relaxing) you will be able to see what I mean.

You will see that, as it were, there are a number of things below you–namely, external to you–that you keep on taking as yourself. In such a passive state you can see them dimly. At first sight they seem to be above you. Immediately you tense your muscles or begin to talk you become them. They become you or you become them, and off you go again. But you must not try to do this exercise too much at first.

The habitual ways we respond to life impressions

Actually they are like little grasping machines that insist on taking charge of you and demand that you should enter them again. They are set in motion by this “secretary”–that is, by the habitual way this secretary responds to impressions. And the reactions which follow we take as life.

We take our typical reactions to impressions as life. We take our reactions to a person as him or her. All life–that is, outer life, which is what we usually think “life” is–namely, what we see and hear– is for each person his or her reactions to the impressions coming in from it. And as I said in the last talk, it is a great mistake to think that what is called “life” is a solid fixed thing, the same for everyone.

Life is our impressions of it

No one has the same impressions of life. Life is our impressions of it and these can be transformed. But as was said, this is a very difficult idea to reach, because the hypnotism of the senses is so powerful. We cannot help thinking that it is only the senses that give us reality.

So our inner life –our real life of thought and feeling–remains dim to our mental conceptions. Yet at the same time we know quite well it is where we really live–that is, in our thoughts and feelings. To establish a point in the work, to make it more real than life, we must observe ourselves and make our inner life of thoughts and feelings a fact more powerful than any “fact” given by our senses.

This is the beginning of transforming. One cannot transform anything in oneself if one is glued to the senses. As I said, in the last talk, the work teaches that if you are negative it is your own fault. The sensory point of view is that this or that person in the outer world, that you see and hear by means of your eyes and ears, is at fault. This person, you will say, because he or she does this or talks like that, is to blame.

Your real being is in the invisible world of yourself

But actually, if you are made negative, what you have to work on, what you have to observe, is this negative emotion intruding itself into your inner life–that is, into the inner invisible “place” where you really exist. Your real being is in the inner invisible world of yourself.

Do you wish to argue this point? Well, are the thoughts and feelings and emotions and hopes and despairs you have less real to you than the tables and chairs in your dining room? Do you live, as it were, in this dining room? You may be very much identified with your particular tables and chairs, but even so, is it not your feeling about these tables and chairs that is real to you?

Suppose you are ill and feel perhaps death is near you, do you bother any more about them? Of course not. And why? Because you have no longer any feelings about them. It is your feelings and your ways of identifying that make you regard this or that thing as important. It is not the things that you see with your physical eyes.

Let us suppose that you notice that you are identified, say, with you furniture: do you think that you must get rid of your furniture in order to change? Of course not. That would be silly. What you can change is your being identified so much.

If you works on this, if you begin to transform your reaction in yourself, you can still enjoy your furniture but you will not commit suicide if it is destroyed in a fire. Do you see the difference ?

You cannot transform life, but you can begin to transform the way you take life.

You cannot transform life, but you can begin to transform the way you take life. The first conscious shock means work on yourself in general. The point of this work is to try to give oneself this shock. Everything that is taught in this system, on the practical side, belongs to the first conscious shock –non-identifying, non-considering, and so on.

This may lead to a real moment of self-remembering

This may lead to a real moment of self-remembering–as a reward. Then one has insight into what one must do, and realization of the truth of the work.

But work must be done in the spirit of the work–that is, in the sense and feeling and valuation of the work. This must enter into every effort of work, for no one can work for themselves alone, otherwise the results go only into false personality and so into merit.

We must work from love of the work. This brings finer energy (Hydrogen 12) up to the place of incoming impressions. Incoming impressions are a coarser energy (Hydrogen 48). They cannot pass to finer energy (Hydrogen 24) without Hydrogen 12 as active force. If this hydrogen is present at the place of reception of impressions– that is, at the place we are conscious–Hydrogen 48, which comes in as passive force, passes to Hydrogen 24, the triad being completed by the Carbon 12.

This finer energy (Hydrogen 12) is not present naturally at this point in the human machine. It has to be brought up to this point. If a person takes life as usual, in the ordinary way–that is, always receives impressions in the same mechanical way and speaks from them in the same mechanical way and acts from them in the same mechanical way–then nothing can change in the person.

Such people cannot evolve. They do not see where the point of working on themselves lies. They think work is something outside them. A person must bring a very powerful hydrogen to the point where impressions are coming in. This is Hydrogen 12. This is brought by the act of self-remembering.

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.

Fourth Way Wisdom Work

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Movement #39 Teaching
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First Obligatory Teaching
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