A Note on Buried Conscience
(an excerpt from Maurice Nicoll’s
Psychological Commentaries on the Teachings of Gurdjieff and Ouspensky)
Now if you do not keep the Work strong in your mind and renew it continually at least once a day, or at least often, if you do not rearrange everything in your mind at intervals so that you are thinking from the channels of the Work and their connections, this awakening of the Buried Conscience begins to cease and then you find yourself alone. When you feel alone like this, you must think of the Work, as, for example, go over what was said at the last meeting and refresh your mind with it. This is a form of Self-Remembering in a practical way and it will send a current of force to Buried Conscience in the Emotional Centre which alone can cast out your devils. It is not as if you do it, nor must you think that you can do it, but if you do what you can do, then something will help you which is not you and which you must never ascribe to yourself. We get into a bad state often because we ascribe everything to ourselves, just as we ascribe our merit to ourselves, just as we ascribe our good to ourselves, which means of course that we inevitably ascribe our evil to ourselves. One must ascribe neither good nor evil to oneself–otherwise one stands in the way of one’s development. The Work is an instrument first of all–a mental instrument–which must be used to put our thoughts in the right order, to get things straight, and if we do this with the memory of our past experience in the Work, this effort to re-arrange internally will stimulate this Buried Conscience in the Emotional Centre which can fight all negative emotions and cast out every devil in us.
You cannot overcome a negative emotion directly. It will only get stronger as a rule. But you can through your mind, through arranging the Work in your mind, touch the emotional part of the Intellectual Centre, which in turn awakens the Buried Conscience which will attack by itself the negative emotions. The power of Buried Conscience derives from the Higher Emotional Centre. You must remember that the Work teaches that Man was once in touch with Higher Centres but went to sleep. He once knew what to do directly but now, in this state of sleep, he can only get to where he was by indirect methods. All that is left now is change of mind. Change of mind starts the whole possible recovery. That is why Christ taught always μετάνοια, change of mind, as the first thing–not repentance, but change of mind. Unless the mind changes, whereby the attitudes change, everyone will always be just as he is, whatever effort he makes in the way of starvation, self-denial and so on. With the same attitude, a man will always remain the same. As long as a man thinks in the same habitual way, he will remain the same. The Work can actually teach a man to think in a new way, I repeat, about himself, about others, and about the meaning of life. With this change of mind his attitudes will inevitably change. If your attitudes have not changed then you will not change and you can never change. If, for example, your attitude is that you are a fully conscious man and that you are a unity and you have a permanent Real ‘I’ and an inflexible will and that you can do and so on, then these attitudes and this way of thinking will fix you always in the same psychological place as you are in and no new development is possible. But if your attitudes change through new thinking, through the ideas of the Work, from esoteric teaching, then you can change, because you will begin to arouse Buried Conscience which cannot work in you as long as you have all these false notions about yourself, about others, and about life, and ascribe all to yourself.
It is exactly this new thinking, this μετάνοια, that the Work can give us, that when emotionally felt arouses into activity the Buried Conscience which then begins to help. So you will see how important it is to keep the Work mentally living in oneself not only by constant outer reminders of it but by your own deeper inner thinking because, as you know, this Work is a rope let down that you have to jump to catch hold of. No doubt sometimes one need no longer jump but as we are it is necessary to jump–that is, to make a certain kind of effort every day to jump up to the Work. If you ask me: “What is this effort?” I will answer that I have said in the paper what this effort is. I will put it in reverse form: If you use the Work merely as a means of occasional chats then you are not making this effort.