by P D Ouspensky
Centre of Gravity
Now it is time for you to think about everything you have heard from the point of view of what is more important, that is to say, to look for the centre of gravity in all the different ideas you have studied and to try to find the chief points because, as in everything else, there are more important and less important points. There are auxiliary things which help you to understand the chief points, and there are chief points which determine the whole. It is now time to distinguish between them.
Right questions, right problems, are those that refer to being and change of being: how to find the weak sides of our being and how to fight against them. We must understand that, before acquiring new knowledge, we must realise our limitations and the fact that our limitations are really limitations of our being. Our knowledge remains on the same level. It grows in a certain direction, but this growth is very limited. We must see what a restricted field we live in, always deceiving ourselves, always imagining things to be different from what they are. We think it is very easy to change something, but it is only when we sincerely try that we realise how difficult, how almost impossible it is. The idea of change of being is the most important idea of all. Theories, systems, diagrams are only a help; they help concentration and right thinking, but there can be only one real aim, and that is to change our being, for if we want to change something in our own understanding of the world, we must change something in ourselves.
What is interesting in this connection, and what I would like to speak about, is the division of men from the point of view of the possibility of changing being. There is such a division. It is particularly connected with the idea of the Path or Way. You remember it was said that from the moment one becomes connected with influence C, a staircase begins, and that only when a man gets to the top of it is the Path or Way reached.
Mr Gurdjieff was asked about who is able to climb this staircase and reach the Way. He replied using a Russian word which can be translated as 'Householder'.
In Indian and Buddhist literature there is a very well-defined type of man and type of life which can bring one to change of being. 'Householder' simply means a man who leads an ordinary life. He has at least certain values and a certain practical attitude. He knows that if he wants to eat, he must work. Such a man can have dreams about possibilities of development; he can come to school, either after a long life or at the beginning of life, and he can work in a school. Only from among such men come people who are able to climb the staircase and reach the Path.
Mr Gurdjieff divided other people into two categories: 'tramps' and 'lunatics'. Tramps do not necessarily mean poor people; they may be rich and still be 'tramps' in their attitude to life . A 'lunatic' does not mean a man deprived of ordinary mind; he may be a statesman or professor. These two categories are no good for a school and will not be interested in it: tramps because they are not really interested in anything, and lunatics because they have false values. If they attempt to climb the staircase, they only fall down and break their necks.
To begin with, it is necessary to understand these three categories from the point of view of the possibility of changing being, that is, possibility of school-work. This division means only that people are not in exactly the same position in relation to the possibilities of starting work. There are people for whom the possibility of changing their being exists but there are many people for whom it is practically impossible because their being is in such a state that there is no starting-point in them.
There are also people in yet a fourth category who, by various means, have already destroyed all possibility of changing their being. This division is not parallel to any other division.
Belonging to one of the first three categories is not permanent and can be changed; but one can come to the work only from the first category, not from the second or the third. The fourth category excludes all possibilities. So though people may, so to speak, be born with the same rights, they lose their rights very easily.
When you understand these categories and find them in your own experience, among your acquaintances in life, or in literature, you will understand this fourth category of people. In ordinary conditions, in ordinary times, they are just criminal or actual lunatics nothing more. But in certain periods of history such people very often play a leading part; they may acquire power and become very important people. But we must leave them for the moment and concentrate on the first three categories.
The possibility of growth of being does not necessarily depend on willingness to obey certain laws and principles. There are different ways. On the monk's way, for instance, you have to begin with obeying, but there are other ways that begin with studying and understanding. You cannot disobey general laws because they make you obey. You can escape from some of them only through growth of being.
If people are already interested in school and are sincere in their attitude towards school, it shows that they belong to those who can change their being. But in each of us there are features of tramp and lunatic, and connection with a school does not mean that we are already free from such features. They play a certain part in us, and in studying being we must struggle with them. This is impossible without a school.
The tramp side in oneself is a sort of irresponsibility that is prepared to throw everything overboard. It can sometimes take poetical forms such as: 'There are no values in the world', 'Nothing is worth anything', 'Everything is relative'; these are favourite phrases. But actually, a tramp is not very dangerous.
A 'lunatic' is much more dangerous. It means a man who always runs after false values and lacks right discrimination. He is always formatory. [See Formatory Apparatus Ed.] Formatory thinking is always defective, and lunatics are particularly devoted to it in one way or another.
The category a man belongs to is determined by a certain attitude to life and people, and by certain possibilities that one has. It is the same for all the first three categories. The fourth category is separate.
In the system, the fourth category has a special name, 'Hasnamuss', which consists of two Turkish words. The Hasnamuss never hesitates to sacrifice people or to create an enormous amount of suffering just for his own personal ambitions.
The creation of a Hasnamuss begins with formatory thinking with being a tramp and a lunatic at the same time. Another definition is that the Hasnamuss is crystallised in the wrong hydrogens. This category cannot interest you practically, because you have nothing to do with such people, but you meet with the results of their existence.
For us, it is important to understand the second and third categories because we can find some of their features in ourselves. In order to struggle against the tramp, school discipline and a general inner discipline are needed, because there is no discipline in a tramp. In a lunatic there may be a great deal of discipline, only of the wrong kind all formatory. So struggle with formatory thinking is struggle against lunacy in ourselves, and the creation of self-discipline is struggle against the tramp in us.
Regarding the characteristics of the householder, he is a practical man; he is not formatory; he must have a certain amount of discipline or he would not be what he is. So practical thinking and self-discipline are characteristics of the first category. Such a man has enough of these for ordinary life but not enough for work, so in the work these two characteristics must increase and grow. A householder is a normal man, and a normal man, given favourable circumstances, has the possibility of development.
But we must think about our own selves, our attitude, and chiefly about our understanding. If we understand, we are already in a better position; we accept tramps and lunatics more easily and we know their ways. If we can avoid being formatory ourselves, we shall be able to avoid confusing these categories with other classifications such as the division of men Nos. 1, 2, and 3. With regard to knowledge, these three men are in everyone, though one of them tends to predominate. When you divide what each of them knows, you will see how a man with a strong predominance can be swayed by it.
Some schools start in a wrong way and develop imaginary qualities such as visions and things like that. Work on being needs constant supervision and knowledge, otherwise many things can go wrong. For instance, one can mistake imagination for the real thing, and if one does not work on being in the right way, one's work can take a wrong turn. This is very important to understand: there must always be these two lines, one helping the other.
For further example, one may mistake identification for oneness, but it is only one of many groups of 'I's, not the whole. Identification practically excludes all other 'I's. Even at ordinary moments, if you are relatively not identified, one 'I' can be doing something and some other 'I's can watch and look in the same direction. But in a state of identification, these other 'I's are completely shut out: one small 'I' occupies the whole field. It is a characteristic of our being that one small 'I' calls itself 'I', meaning the whole thing. That is why I say that we always lie to ourselves and to everybody else when we say 'I', because this is not 'I' but only a small thing pretending to be the whole.
Efforts may be made by one 'I' or a small group of 'I's. Our aim is to be able to make right efforts of self-study and self-development with a bigger group of 'I's, so that this small group of 'I's that begin self-study can grow and become sufficiently big and strong to control the whole thing and keep the direction. But in the beginning it has to be educated in all that we call school-work by a certain kind of study. If this small group of 'I's with which you begin does not grow, you will not have enough strength to go on. Many people begin this work and then leave it. Nothing can be done about it, and one cannot tell beforehand. After some time you will see for yourself whether you have enough energy and interest; work needs energy and effort. You can get neither knowledge nor being by being passive. You have to be active in relation to the work.
The chief thing to remember and think about in connection with being is sleep and the possibility of awakening. You must find in yourself certain ideas, certain thoughts which will awaken you.
You must also find certain realisations. There is a great difference between realisation and words. Once you have realised something, you know that it is true. Then you must not forget it. It is necessary to realise what sleep is before you can find ways to awaken.
All ideas of the work begin with the idea of sleep and the possibility of awakening. All other ideas of life may be clever and elaborate, but they are the ideas of sleeping people. We are so accustomed to these imaginary ideas that, after some time, we take the ideas of the system on the same level as these other ideas that lead nowhere. It is useful to think that every day when you meet here may be the last day. We do not know what tomorrow may bring, but we usually forget this. If you realise it, your emotional attitude will increase by itself and you will be able to think about what is really important.
Try to compare the ideas and principles of the work with things in life. It will not help you if you say they are different. We want to find for ourselves and not for academic purposes what is more important and what is less important, so intellectual comparison is not the right way to begin; it is not enough. Realisation will bring emotional feeling. It must be realised more often, must be connected with more things. Just review the ideas you have heard. Find out which of them attract you more. Some may remain just words to you, but about others you may have practical observations or experiences. That will help.
You must try to cut out unnecessary things in order to progress. This is the aim in everything. If you are doing something for a certain definite purpose, the fewer unnecessary things you do the nearer you come to your aim. For instance, if you are hurrying to catch a train and at the same time you want to linger over your newspaper, you will miss your train and will not read the newspaper. It is better to take the newspaper with you and read it on the train. But to cut out everything is impossible, and impossible things are not required. However, the principle remains that we have so many unnecessary things we consider obligatory that we can reduce them.
In this system, incentive must come from the realisation of your present situation and of the possibility of change. It may even be brought by the realisation that it is possible to know more than you know now. The second refers to knowledge and the first to being. Actually you must have both, and all this must be verified. Very soon after you begin to work, you realise that you begin to acquire certain knowledge that opens up new possibilities of understanding. Nobody can escape this if he really tries to work. And after some time you will notice changes in yourself changes which you may not be able to describe but which produce new attitudes. This is inevitable and gives you a definite valuation and a definite understanding that you are getting something and moving somewhere instead of standing still.
This will help you to make decisions. The first thing is to know what is more and what is less important. If you learn to distinguish this, decision will not be difficult. You must learn to distinguish between mechanicalness and consciousness on school level. Things that are connected with work can be conscious. Things connected with convenience, gain, pleasure, profit are mechanical. Further, if the decision is really important and is connected with your work, you have a right to ask for advice. In such a case you must particularly try not to decide alone.
Do not dream of things you cannot do or try to do more than you can. Nobody can help you to want to work; you must want yourself. But if you do not do what you can, you will lose ground and work less and less. If you try to remember yourself or to stop thoughts three or four times a day, this will very soon give you energy: only it must be regular. We can increase our power to work only by working. If you learn to make small efforts, you will have small results, and if you make bigger efforts you will get bigger results.
Change of being does not necessarily make you entirely independent of external events. But the more you become united in yourself and the more you are conscious, the less you will depend on circumstances. You will understand them better, find your way better, and thus you will become more free. As to what happens later, it must be experienced in further stages. It is useless to speak about it theoretically. You can judge now, by everything I say, that I am trying to bring you to practical things.
Trying to remember yourself is always right. Make yourself try. Whatever you are doing, try to realise that you are doing it; or that, in doing it, you are failing to do something you should be doing. If you try that persistently, it will give results. Effort to remember yourself is the chief thing, because without it nothing else has any value; it must be the basis of everything. Only in this way can you pass from the mechanical to a more conscious state.
You must try to see yourself, that is, to have a right picture of yourself. We have many pictures of ourselves; we must see them, one after another, and then compare them. We cannot say at first glance which, if any, is right. It can be verified only by repeated experience. You must, as it were, take mental snapshots of yourself as preparation for seeing yourself.
We can still deceive ourselves even after repeated experience: but when the emotional element conscience enters, that will be verification.
You take these mental snapshots by seeing how you look, how people see you in one or another set of circumstances. You have to do it yourself, although sometimes it may be useful to ask other people about their impression of you, because everybody has a wrong impression of himself. Everybody stands before a mirror and, instead of himself, sees somebody else. If you do that you will get an idea of your rôles. Rôles are often divided by buffers, so we cannot look from one rôle to another.
Sometimes you may see your faults and also what to do about them. But what you are really seeking is a definition and an explanation. and I speak about actual practice, not about defining or translating it into words. I mean actually to see.
Suppose you have only heard. You can know all that is possible to know about this picture, but if you have not seen it, you must first see it for yourself and then verify all that you have heard. Seeing oneself does not mean seeing always. You can see yourself for a time; then you cease to see.
One cannot speak to a person seriously until he begins to see himself, or at least realises that he does not see himself and that it is necessary to do so.
It is necessary to distinguish between being serious and taking things seriously. People usually think about how to take things seriously, and which things, but never about what it means to be serious. To be serious means to take nothing seriously except things that you know for certain are important in relation to what you want. This may look too small: but when you apply it in practice you will see that it is the only solution and the most necessary thing.
You see, people who are not serious cannot be taken seriously from this point of view. One moment they are serious, another moment they forget everything, a third moment they again try to find something, next moment they are quite satisfied with what they have. This means that they are not they do not exist. First they must exist.
By serious work, I mean not only study but change. First you must study certain things, then you work to change them. But, since even study cannot go on without a certain change, because these two processes of study and change are not completely divorced from each other, a more serious study than just at the beginning can already be called serious work.
With certain negative emotions, serious work is practically impossible because they will spoil all results; one side of you will work and another will spoil it. So if you start this work without conquering certain negative emotions, after some time you may find yourself in a worse state than before. It happened several times that people made continuation of work impossible for themselves because they wished to keep their negative emotions. There were moments when they realised it, but they did not make sufficient efforts at the time, and later the negative emotions became stronger.
Two things cause people to make efforts: they want to get something or they want to get rid of something. But, in ordinary conditions, without knowledge, people do not know what they can get rid of or what they can gain.
Everything has its own term of life, and if one waits too long it becomes useless and only bad results can come. Short-cuts come from time to time, but if we miss them, after some time they cease to come. It is necessary to remember what was said at different times about effort, because effort is the basis of the work. Everything we can gain is in proportion to effort; the more effort we make, the more we can expect. We want very big things; we do not realise what enormous things we want. In the beginning efforts are small only because in ordinary life we do not make efforts; everything in life is done to avoid work, so it is difficult to realise and accept the necessity of effort. All our ways of thinking and doing have the tendency to avoid it at all costs.
In ordinary life we can change nothing we make one step to the right and one step to the left, and the situation remains the same. But it is different in any system or any kind of school. If one works quickly, change will be quick; if one works very little, change will be proportionate. You cannot buy a big house for a few pennies you have to pay what it costs. Just think about it this way: how much do you pay and how much change do you expect? We have talked enough and can understand enough. We must see how much we pay and then we will see how much we can get. We cannot expect more. How many real efforts do we make? If we deceive ourselves we cannot know, but if we do not deceive ourselves we can see how much we can expect.
Effort by itself does not help, because you do not know in what direction to make effort. That is why school is necessary. Man as he is can learn many things if these things are shown to him and explained; but by himself, if he gets these things, he will get them wrong and make mistakes, or he will simply not get them at all. If it were not like that, school would not be necessary; at least some people could get these things by themselves. But they cannot, and nobody can.
One can get some ideas from books, but a person will get one thing and miss ten other things. There are books in which very deep secrets are hidden, but people can read them and never get these secrets. They are quite safe. Again, this is connected with the fundamental idea that understanding depends not only on knowledge but also on being. That is why one needs a school. In a school you cannot deceive yourself, and in school it can be explained to you why you cannot understand. It means there is something in you that you have to conquer in order to understand more. We do not see ourselves but, with help, with study, we can see much more. There are different degrees of seeing.
The reason why nobody can discover for himself the points from which to begin is that one 'I' discovers something, but at that moment another 'I' becomes interested in something else and takes all the energy. Then, while the second 'I' works, a third 'I' comes along, and so on. Man is always running in different directions. We do not realise how important this is.
We may have to change some habits, but we don't know what we must change. People tend to try to change things that are not important, and what is important is disregarded or put off till tomorrow. Habits of moving and instinctive centres can be good habits. Habits in intellectual or emotional centres can never be useful.
Some habits are quite ordinary and harmless, but if you begin to put obstacles in their way it will give you good material for self-observation and you will be able to distinguish identification when it enters. This struggle induces frictions, and without friction you would not notice yourself; you would live as though in a thick fog, without noticing it. But the second step depends on your decision: you can be simply irritated by this friction, or you can use it.
One can study oneself as one is. It is very important to study that. And, from the very first steps one must try to change things, because in our state of chaos we cannot even study ourselves. We have to bring in some order. We want to make an inventory of our house and so we begin to set down what there is in it. But suppose that, while we are doing it, other people in the house keep moving the furniture, or the furniture moves itself. This is what actually happens the furniture moves itself, so you must attach it to some definite place.
School knowledge is knowledge acquired through higher centres, so it is quite a different method. We are given certain principles and certain divisions which are ordinarily not known. If we begin to study ourselves from this new point of view we will discover many new things. When you are certain of these divisions and principles, then by observing yourself on this basis, you discover things you cannot discover without knowing them. With the ordinary mind we see things only vaguely and they become confused; we cannot distinguish one from another, so we mix things. But if we are told how to do so, we can divide them even with our ordinary mind.
Observation is different from introspection. Introspection is the same as imagination: it is uncontrolled. It is useless and does not bring anything. But in observing you know what you are doing and why you are doing it, what you want to attain, what you want to know. It is not introspection, it is studying a very complicated machine. It is really mechanics, not psychology. Psychology comes later.
The reason why one can observe oneself and still go on repeating the same silly antics is that there is not one person but many. One person looks on, and another continues the antics. If you can see the different people in you in one case, it is good. If you can see them in several cases, things begin to get uncomfortable. If you can see them always, it is the beginning of work.
Some deep shocks that occur in life can be favourable to one's work. But such shocks cannot replace work. All that can be acquired on the line of development of consciousness can be acquired only by effort. A shock cannot replace effort; it can act on centres but not on consciousness. Consciousness does not develop or grow by itself. A shock can for a moment open up connection with higher centres. It can for a certain time concentrate all the energy in our body that is normally dispersed everywhere. You can then awaken for a moment, but as a rule you fall more deeply asleep later. You can even lose consciousness or be in a very low state afterwards. So no shock can increase the amount of consciousness. This is a very important thing to understand. People usually mix the idea of consciousness and functions. Both must develop, but the development of one does not produce the development of the other.
If centres are balanced and acquire sufficient speed, they become connected with the higher centres. In our present state of consciousness we can be aware only of the work of lower centres; in self-consciousness we can be aware of more. But first we must start cleaning our machinery.
We must also be aware that efforts can be wasted. People can make efforts all their lives and they can all be wasted if they make them in the wrong way. People who belong to a wrong school with some kind of twisted idea can make enormous efforts and all of them can be lost. Even in the right way one can make efforts for some time and then, if one stops, all those efforts will be lost. So efforts can be wasted if they are not followed by a right attitude and by other efforts.
A sense of urgency is first generated by magnetic centre which has a dim realisation of ordinary conceptions, intentions, and possibilities. Then, when one begins to study, at a certain moment realisation of sleep becomes emotional and gains strength. Lack of understanding means lack of emotion. Only formatory centre can work without emotion. Every right realisation becomes emotional. One of our obstacles is that we are too dull, not emotional enough. The intellect is a very weak machine. That is why the emotional centre must be free of negative emotions, because otherwise we use all its energy on them and can do nothing.
Every kind of work produces energy, but some kinds produce only a small amount, so it is necessary to make consecutive efforts for a long time to produce sufficient energy. Some other kind of work may produce much energy at once. Sometimes an effort may look quite small and be very big in reality, and sometimes a very big effort may be very small.
If people could feel more, many things would be easier for them. But they have for a long time been creating so many protective devices against feeling that there cannot be any at present. It is necessary to find a beginning; without a beginning nothing is possible. You must begin somewhere. There are some things that are more difficult and others that are less difficult. What you really need is more observation and a certain kind of thinking about yourself or about something else. If you persist in this thinking it can make you emotional; only you must find for yourself what it is. It is impossible to give general advice suitable for everybody. Every person has some points which bring him nearer to an emotional state; it is necessary to find them. Whatever happens later, it is necessary to begin in this way. Very strong continuous effort in any work will make you more emotional after some time. A certain perod of efforts on different lines is bound to increase your emotions.
We must never expect immediate results. It is necessary to work for a long time to create permanent standards before one can hope for immediate results, and even that comes only in very emotional states. If we could by will or desire or intention become more emotional, many things would be different. But we cannot. We are very low emotionally and that is why most of the work we do now, even if we really to do it, can have no immediate results. But no right effort is lost; something always remains, only it must be followed by other and bigger efforts.
So the first question is how to become more emotional, and that we cannot do except by making efforts. The second question is how to use emotional states when they come, and that is what we must prepare ourselves for. Emotional states come and we lose them in identification and things like that. But we could use them.
If you remember yourself you will see many ways of using this state when it comes; it is a matter of observation. It will give you a different power of thinking, of understanding. It cannot be described because it is a personal experience.
We speak about emotions, but many of them we know only by name. They are so mixed with other things and we identify with them so much that we do not realise all that we could get from them if we could take them in the right way. All that we call emotions anger, fear, boredom can all be turned upside down, and then we will find that they have quite a different taste. All emotions can be useful: they are like additional windows or senses, only we cannot use them except for creating new illusions. If we used them for seeing things as they are, we would learn many new things.
Anger or hate can help if you turn them against yourself. Hate yourself; find in yourself what you hate. One can see many things when one becomes angry with oneself. This is not self-criticism. Criticism is simply intellectual; this is feeling. All intellectual activity is preparing material; then the emotional centre can begin to work with this material. Intellectual centre cannot by itself help in awakening. Only work on the emotional centre can do this. We can awaken only through unpleasant emotions; awakening through pleasant emotions has not yet been invented. The most unpleasant thing is to go against oneself, against one's views, convictions, inclinations. Awakening is not for those who are afraid of unpleasant things; it is only for those who wish to awaken. They must realise what being asleep means and how much shaking may be necessary. The important question is how to provide perpetual shaking for oneself and how to agree to it.
We can begin to train the emotional centre in two ways. The first is by not expressing negative emotions. We know that it is possible because we see that fear can prevent us from doing it. For example, a soldier does not express his unpleasant feelings in front of his officer because he knows that if he does, his punishment will be severe. So if it is possible to refrain mechanically, it is possible to do so consciously. We can act on our emotions by separating mind from emotions. Mind can not only be trained to do its own proper work but also taught to stand aside and look at emotions. Then, after a time, the emotional centre begins to realise that it is not worth while going on if mind does not follow.
It is a general rule that everyone has about five or six kinds of emotion for certain occasions, so everyone can know beforehand what will happen. Our repertoire is very limited, so we can and must study ourselves from this point of view. It is really much easier than we think. If we talk seriously to ourselves for half an hour, we can stop our emotions because we know all the associations that will produce them. It would not be easy if our repertoire of emotions were unlimited; but emotions for tomorrow are very limited, so you know very well that it would be difficult to think of a new one. But you must know all the associations very well, and you must know the ways by which emotions ordinarily come.
This is the most difficult thing. Reason wants to stop emotion but it is weak, whereas emotion is the strongest centre we have. One can stop it only in an indirect way, and not at the moment. However, it is good to try. Then, little by little, you may find out how to stop it, for it can be done only by skill. The only way is to create new attitudes opposed to the emotions you want to stop. Then, in the long run, the attitude may prove stronger than the emotion.
So there are two ways to stop emotions: first, by being conscious; second, by creating right attitudes. But for each particular case a different attitude is necessary, so it is long work. We are not only machines; we are already damaged machines. It is necessary to work hard in order to repair the machine.
It is only our identification that makes us susceptible to the negative emotions of other people. If you have a definite case, you can visualise the possibility of not being identified, and you will see that you will be less susceptible. But even better than visualising it, try it in actual fact. The relation of identification to negative emotions is not a theory; it can easily be verified. Identification is easier to understand than emotions; there are hundreds of different emotions, but identification is always the same. One must watch all impressions the moment they come in. Identification works both in the case of attraction and repulsion.
Many perceptions come through emotion. We must be as emotional as possible, for we miss many perceptions, ideas, understandings because at the moment we are not emotional enough. We have no positive emotions, but we can say that we have negative emotions and pleasant and unpleasant emotions that are not negative.
An emotion that cannot become negative gives enormous understanding and has enormous cognitive value. It connects things that cannot be connected in an ordinary state. To have positive emotions is recommended and advised in religions, but they do not say how to get them. They say, 'Have faith, have love'. How? Christ says, 'Love your enemies'. It is not for us; we cannot even love our friends. It is the same as saying to a blind man, 'You must see!' A blind man cannot see, or he would not be a blind man. That is what positive emotion means.
Before we can love our enemies, we must first love ourselves. We do not love ourselves enough; we love our false personality, not ourselves.
It is difficult to understand the New Testament or Buddhist writings, for they are notes taken in school. One line of these writings refers to one level and another to another level.
An emotion that is not negative can be either pleasure or suffering. But both can become negative or give birth to other negative emotions.
Some people find it easy to love small children and animals. But we cannot speak of animals when we speak about man. Instinctive negative emotions have their own place and their own normal causes, but the emotional centre borrows their results and substitutes imaginary causes.
It is very interesting to see the lack of symmetry between pleasant and unpleasant emotions. Pleasant emotions cannot grow much; they are limited. Unpleasant emotions can grow. But this refers only to our present state of consciousness; in another state the symmetry is re-established, for then pleasant emotions can also grow. Of course, we cannot verify this until we are in another state of consciousness. Why can unpleasant emotions grow? Because there are no limits to the abnormal state of the machine. But pleasures are limited by our powers of perception. This is one of the unpleasant sides of our situation.
One of our chief difficulties is that for a long time we have no definite results by which we can judge our progress. In ordinary conditions, we judge by results. If we study a language, we know that after some time we shall be able to read short sentences, then small paragraphs, then short stories. But if you take the psychological side of the work, you have to make efforts to observe, to remember yourself, and at first you will see no visible results. Then, after some time, you will see some results but you cannot bargain about it.
Only you can tell whether or not you have established something for yourself that will take you further. It depends on how much you understand, how well you are prepared. One day there is one situation, another day another situation. One day one works, another day one can make a small mistake which may make one lose all the results of this work. The next day again one may work. One is changing all the time, so up to a certain definite stage it is impossible to say.
It is useless to discuss in advance at what stage one cannot lose anything. We can lose everything. But even this ability not to lose comes step by step. At a certain stage a man cannot lose one thing, then further on, he cannot lose another thing, and so on. It comes little by little.
It is also useless to discuss how to improve your valuation of the work because only you can know this. You must think; you must compare ordinary ideas with these ideas; you must try to find in what sense these ideas help you. Everything we do in the work tends to increase valuation, so try not to miss anything that is given because all the ideas have this aim. Every principle will increase your valuation of the work; it cannot diminish it. But there can be no special method for this.
Work on ourselves does not mean that we shall gain higher consciousness. It may take a very long time. We want to acquire control of higher states of consciousness: but before that the system speaks of acquiring control over ordinary faculties, over thoughts, over emotions; and in acquiring this control we must eliminate certain things and create the possibility of self-remembering. So first we must acquire control over simple, ordinary things. Only then can we expect more. In this system there are gradual steps; one cannot jump.
It is interesting that many people, not necessarily only those in the work, live only on objections; they think themselves clever only when they find an objection to something. When they do not find an objection, they do not feel themselves to be working, or thinking, or anything.
The difficulty is that we are too accustomed to thinking in absolutes all or nothing. But it is necessary to understand that everything new comes first in flashes. It comes and then disappears, comes again and disappears again. Only, after a certain time these flashes become longer and then still longer. We can try to prolong these flashes by repeating the causes that produced them. I do not want to give an example because it will lead to imagination. All I will say is that by certain efforts of self-remembering one can see things that one cannot see now. Our eyes are not as limited as we think; there are many things they can see that we do not notice.
Our greatest difficulties are absence or slowness of understanding, because understanding generally comes about two years behind time. But work does not wait or remain the same. One year has certain requirements, the next year something else is required, and so it goes on. It generally happens that people are ready for the requirements of two years ago.
People who wish to continue must raise their standard, and this must not be done at my suggestion. You must think for yourselves in what sense and in what form the standard should be raised. You must think about details things which, to begin with, were only advised, must now become rules for you (but not in the sense of 'school rules', using the word 'school' in its ordinary meaning). The necessity must be understood. We have come to the stage when we must be serious, and this means self-limitation, limiting false personality. Freedom of 'I' depends on limiting false personality; both cannot be free together; one or another must be sacrificed.