Psychological Commentaries on the Teachings of Gurdjieff and Ouspensky
Every 'I' produces its own state. Everyone is in a certain state
at a certain moment owing to an 'I' that produces this state in him or
her. If you find it difficult to study different 'I's in you there are
two things that help. Different 'I's are grouped in personalities
within the Personality—for example, a man has a certain personality
connected with his college and a quite different personality connected
with his domestic life. These sub-divisions of the Personality as
a whole are themselves composed of many different 'I's. On one
occasion Mr. Ouspensky was talking about the difficulty of seeing
different 'I's and said we should try to see groups of 'I's which might be
called sub-personalities. A man goes to his club and he has a certain
personality; he then goes to his office where he has a different personality;
and then he goes home where he is in a different personality.
The other way of studying 'I's is to notice one's state. As I said, each
'I' produces its own atmosphere, its own state in oneself. In viewing
any matter, if we have any power of successive observation, we soon
recognize that we take it in different ways at different times. This is
because of the shifting kaleidoscope of 'I's. When a particular 'I' is
predominant we view things through this 'I' and the next moment
when a different 'I' comes up we view the matter in a quite different
Now one can easily become negative or depressed when one begins
to notice this in oneself. But this is quite wrong from everything that
the Work teaches us. We have no Real 'I', no permanent 'I', and have
to realize it. We have to see the truth for ourselves. This continual
change of different 'I's in us is exactly what we are told to observe.
Sometimes people say: "Cannot you make up your mind definitely
as to what you think about Mr. X? Do you like him or not?".
But this question is foolish because it all depends which 'I' you are in
when you happen to meet him. Each 'I' will induce a different state
in you and in each different state you will view him differently.
Now if you have begun to have Work-memory through self-observation
you will begin to know this already. This means that you no longer
believe in your momentary different states—i.e. in your different
'I's which keep coming up in turn. 'I's cannot be overcome save by
self-observation and non-identifying. A person may have the idea that
he should really make up his mind definitely, let us say, about Mr. X.
I will ask you this question: "What is going to make up your mind?"
Each 'I' will make up your mind quite differently—that is, each 'I'
will give you a quite different outlook towards him. If you begin to
observe your 'I's and not identify with him you will finally get a
picture of Mr. X. composed of all the different angles that each 'I'
in you sees. You will therefore get a composite picture of Mr. X.—not
a picture based on the opposites but a full picture of him. I will add
here that this is quite impossible unless you can see different 'I's
in yourself. If you have no memory arising from moments of selfobservation
and Self-Remembering you will never be able to get a
full picture of Mr. X. And what is the reason? The reason is that you
have no composite picture of yourself yet and therefore are still in
Imaginary 'I' whose power over us makes us say 'I' to every 'I'. As you
know, you have to get rid of the idea that you are one unvarying
person. This hits Vanity and Pride, perhaps even more especially
at Pride. You know how difficult it is for a person to admit that
he has changed his mind. I think this is Pride. You surely all know
people, if you don't know yourself already, who think they are always
the same. Such people are living under a delusion. They do not
see that at every moment they change owing to a succession of different
'I's that come into their conscious sphere and take charge of it for
the moment and induce a certain state. Do you remember what
was said about 'I's, how each 'I' is Caliph for a moment? After a
time it is quite possible to reach that stage in the Work in which you
do not believe so much in yourself as a real person. This is part of
the loosening process of the Work and gives a form of consciousness
that life rarely grants us—i.e. the new consciousness that comes
through self-observation in the light of esoteric teaching. This consciousness
gradually begins to approach the Third Level of Consciousness,
or the Level of Self-Awareness,- or the State of Self-Remembering,
or Self-Consciousness. I can think of no better definition of what
Self-Awareness means than that you begin to be aware of typical 'I's
in you and do not allow them to become Caliphs and do not identify
with the states they induce.
Now do you recognize your states and do you recognize that at
every moment you are in a particular state and in each state you see
things differently just as in walking round a house you see it from
quite different angles at every moment? You may not be able to
see an 'I', because I think sometimes people think of an 'I' as something
written on the blackboard and do not see that an 'I' can only be
detected by the state it produces in you. An 'I' cannot be recognized
as an 'I' just like that. It can only be recognized by observing the
intellectual and emotional state that it induces. For example, you
find yourself having certain thoughts and feelings. Or you are in a
mood. Perhaps you do not yet realize clearly enough that this is
due to an 'I' in you that is predominant at the moment. You are identified
with this 'I' and see everything through this 'I'. You are thinking
through it, you are having its thoughts, you are feeling through it,
you are feeling its emotions. Now if you are observing your thoughts
and your emotions and after a time begin to recognize that you have
had the same thoughts and emotions previously, you will begin to
recognize that this is an 'I' in you, and if you have any memory through
self-observation you will know quite well that these thoughts, these
emotions, become quite different later on—i.e. when a different 'I'
is predominant in you. In fact, you may laugh at these thoughts,
these emotions, and wonder why you took everything in that way.
This is exactly what an 'I' is. You cannot see an 'I' itself as you can see
a human being or a butterfly or a piece of coal: it is not an object outside
you. You can only observe an 'I' through its effects on you, through
what it is suggesting to you, through what it is saying to you and trying
to make you think and trying to make you feel. It is a very good thing
to ask oneself sometimes: "In what state am I?" After a time in the
Work you will find that this is a difficult question to answer because you
have so many memories of different states, apart from the one you
are in, that you do not accept the particular state that has come
in through the 'I' that is trying to induce it and to make you believe
in it at the moment. In other words, you begin to shift and sway away
from your successive states—that is, from the power of successive
'I's that seek to hypnotize you and make you obey them. This is
movement towards Real 'I'. Real 'I' of course obeys nothing but itself
and controls all other 'I's. But in order to approach this psychological
state where Real 'I' lives—and it is a long journey—you must first
of all not submit to your changing 'I's which are not you, not Real 'I',
but which are always trying to persuade you that they are you. Every
'I' says to you something like this: "Look now, this is what you really
are. I am you and this is how you feel, this is how you really think."
And I assure you that these 'I's are very clever hypnotists and in the
vast majority of people their action is extremely successful. The vast
majority of people believe in every successive 'I' that flits into their
minds at a particular moment.
So try to notice 'I's through observing your states. We begin
this Work by noticing our states and the quality of our thoughts
and the quality of our feelings. Let me give you one more example.
Someone came to me the other day and said: "I feel rather hopeless
about my progress in the Work." I said: "Why do you not observe
this 'I' in you?"
[Uit Deel III]