Commentary on Increase of Consciousness
(by Maurice Nicoll from The Psychological Commentaries on the Teachings of Gurdjieff and Ouspensky)
According to the teaching of this Work we are at the second level of consciousness, designated the so-called Waking State in which people hate and kill each other in the name of some theory, etc. The Work teaches that mankind, being at this level, which is not proper consciousness, suffers in accordance with this state, and is used for other purposes than are beneficial to it. It says, before anything can become better, mankind–or a sufficient number of people—must reach the 3rd level. Otherwise no real change in the affairs of mankind can occur and Man will continue to swing between the opposites, war and peace, etc. In short, we here–each one–must undergo an increase in consciousness. The 3rd level of consciousness–where outside help can reach us–is called the level of Self-Remembering, Self-Consciousness or Self-Awareness. We seek to reach this level. Of course, in common fairness, everyone should. Well, start with yourself. Can you wake up a little? How, then, can we individually, through personal work, undergo an increase of consciousness?
Now we come to a commentary on this central Work-idea of becoming more conscious and the consequences of remaining asleep in the 2nd state.
Our direction of increasing consciousness is making yourself more conscious to yourself. We spoke recently of the person who “could not hear” and of the person who “was always out”. As several people found the comments made on these two definitions given by Gurdjieff useful, let us speak about the person “who always makes difficulties”. On one occasion Mr. Ouspensky said to me: “You always make difficulties”. I was surprised. I thought at the time that this was really an absurd thing to say about me. It seemed so obvious to me then that it was O. who always made difficulties. I never made them. So I was not only surprised, but offended. Probably, I thought to myself: “What? Can he really mean that? Can he believe it is true, when for several months or years I have been carefully pointing out to him how difficult he is, and what difficulties he makes for me?” Now I take this example in order to illustrate how, unless one becomes conscious of something in oneself one cannot see it, cannot understand how it can possibly apply to oneself and so cannot change it. Is it not clear that if you are not conscious of some quality in yourself, you are therefore not aware of it and therefore cannot believe that you possess it, if someone else happens to point it out to you, and so you cannot change it? Consciousness and change are inseparable. A person has two things: a physical body and a psychological body. The knowledge of both is extremely faulty and erroneous. So people collide daily with one another.
Now let us take only the psychological body–a person’s psychology–your own personal psychology, through which you relate yourself to another person’s psychology. A difficult matter indeed because you are not aware of your own psychology, nor is the other person aware of his or her psychology. Both have a thousand and one things in them that they are unconscious of, that they are not aware of, and yet that manifest themselves all the time. This is the general state of “Man asleep”. So the Work starts with “self-observation”. It says that it is necessary to “know thyself”–to quote the inscription written over the portico of the ancient Greek temple of Delphi, where there was an esoteric school that had clairvoyance and which was acknowledged throughout the North-Eastern Mediterranean some four thousand years ago. Yes, before we can start, we must know ourselves much better than we do in the running stream of life: and out of that knowledge we must become more responsible to one another and to ourselves. Otherwise we do not really exist individually.