What is identification Vernon Howard explains it perfectly in Esoteric Encyclopedia of Eternal Knowledge:


Begin today to comprehend the enormously important idea called identification.  Your understanding will sweep away a thousand difficulties in a flash.

To identify means to believe that something gives you an identity of some kind.  You can identify with anything – money, sex, public prominence, your own thoughts.  A man exclaims, ‘See!  I achieved my goal, therefore, I have an identity as a successful man.’  In a gigantic blunder, he mistakes a mere idea about himself as being himself.  And that blunder causes dozens of other errors, including fear of failure.

A very common form of identification is to identify with external activities.  By chasing round and getting involved, a man tries to convince himself of the importance and usefulness of what he is doing.  He deceives himself with the self-description, ‘I am a dynamic and impressive man.’  But his nightmares know better.

Esoteric wisdom urges him to slow down and take a look at the tragic trick he is playing on himself.  That alone will save him from himself.

Inner Life Exercise

“…when you are trying to observe yourself, you must not put the feeling of ‘I’ into what you observe.  You are observing It, a machinery of emotions and thoughts, which is self-running and never still, and, if you look, you will observe an ‘I’ in you, a person in you.  But this person is not you, although he lives with you, and feeds on you, and takes your name – i.e. your force.  You will only get into a state of complete confusion if you think that you are one ‘I’ and think in some way that this ‘I’ can observe this one ‘I’.    People have the illusion that only one thing acts in them and feels and thinks.  Having this illusion, they can form no idea of what self-mastery may mean.  If we suppose that there is only one thing that acts in a man then it will be impossible for one thing to command, another to obey. …One has to observe that one is many and not one.”  –

Maurice Nicoll   Psychological Commentaries on the Teaching of Gurdjieff and Ouspensky



  1. Melodie Machovina on February 18, 2019 at 3:09 pm

    If we identify with being a success one week, the next week we will identify as a failure. This is proof our real nature is neither of these! Upon understanding this, we don’t have to live under the law of opposites and there is great relief when we realize we don’t have to pretend to be anybody. Thank you for making this clear to us Vernon!

  2. Gina on February 18, 2019 at 10:03 pm

    This explains so beautifully the tragic situation man finds himself in. A self he really had no part in creating. Obtained from his family, which was passed on from another and another, each believing to have been the originator. In this dire and all pervasive situation, what hope does a man have to step out from ‘among them’ and reach that holy place his soul is crying for? This Work, ‘Esoteric wisdom’ as so eloquently and selflessly formulated by the Mystic Masters such as GI Gurdjieff, and Vernon Howard, offers a fighting chance for all who will step up, and study their own ‘machine’… broken, cruel, confused, self-absorbed. To step up and say that I will no longer contribute to the sleep of humanity in dreaming that I am ok. I am not ok, I have lived my life asleep and been horrible to everyone I’ve ever met. I have intense and brutally honest work to do on myself. Beautifully, with this method of self Work, a person can see what is, what they actually are – right now -feel the horror of it, but not be identified with that feeling. Real work is to study our own human factory, beyond thought and feeling, using this Work as our method.

  3. Terry on February 21, 2019 at 4:19 pm

    Gina’s comment perfectly expresses the power of this post. When we identify with anything, we put blinders on our intuitive knowing. The easiest way I have found to let go of my personal identifying is to remind myself that I don’t identify in the same way when something happens to other people. My reminder exposes the truth about what I’m doing. When I’m identifying with anything, I’m not living my own life. This realization will serve, as the post says, to save me from myself. It’s also the most valuable gift we can give the world.

  4. Terry on February 21, 2019 at 6:57 pm

    Gina’s comments perfectly express the value of this post.

    Whenever I start to identify with anything, I quickly remind
    myself that I don’t identify in the same way when I hear
    about what happens to other people. Any urge to identify
    instantly drops away.

    Not identifying is the single greatest way to get the most
    from our self-work, and it is the greatest gift we can give
    the rest of the world.

  5. Lisa Hunter on February 24, 2019 at 3:27 pm

    In my experience, the sure way to find out if I am wrongly identified with something is to notice if there is any pain involved. That includes defensiveness or even elation. There is a small part in each and every one of us that is above identifying. If we watch closely we see clearly when we stray, and that brings us back on course.

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