A NOTE ON EXTERNAL CONSIDERING
(Maurice Nicoll, Psychological Commentaries on the Teachings of Gurdjieff and Ouspensky)
A quite natural question was asked at one of the sub-groups in connection with the last paper: “Can external considering be entirely divorced from internal considering?”
External considering is always conscious. It is anti-mechanical and so requires conscious effort. Internal considering is always mechanical and so effortless–that is, not conscious, but the work of the machine. To put yourself consciously in the position of another person and see yourself in him and him in yourself is a conscious act requiring conscious effort. Internal considering goes by itself and is mechanical. Just cheering up a person who is miserable is ordinary human and reasonable behaviour, but if it is a question of the Work–and here the Second Line of Work comes in–you have to listen to the person internally and find the corresponding thing in yourself–that is, to reflect the person in yourself as by a mirror, finding the same thing in yourself and not denying it, and then the other person will undergo a change of state without your saying anything. You do not blame but accept and by doing this you make room for the other person to alter. We have, in the Second Line, to make room for others. This is quite different from helping the person in the ordinary sense, which is simply the blind leading the blind. External considering demands listening internally and finding the same thing in yourself–that is, if you have sufficient self-observation and self-knowledge. You cannot influence others if you do not know the other person in yourself.
External considering is seeing the state of a person and remembering that you were in that state, because in the Work everyone passes through the same states as, say, an older, intelligent person has passed through and remembers. Intelligence means seeing the truth of a thing. As I implied, the mere finding in yourself of this state of the other person, without saying anything, will help the other person. External considering is a deep internal act and is based on an increase of consciousness–that is, on love–for all real love is consciousness of another person’s difficulties through finding the same difficulties in yourself. Conscious love is not blind. This makes a new neutralizing force–a Work-force. So in a sense it is done in silence–internally. It can be done, even if you are not in the presence of the other person, by inner work and by always finding the same state in yourself for which you might tend to blame the other person and perhaps nobly try not to, and call it self-sacrifice. This is useless suffering. But when you are externally considering, which is inner, you must not show it outwardly–otherwise it becomes condescension and so goes into False Personality. To imagine you, as you are, can help another is always condescension. That is, it is based on the idea that you know better. You can, by sitting in your room and doing this inner work of external considering, this consciousness of your Work-neighbour, actually change the state of that perosn at a distance, but only by becoming conscious of the same state in yourself and so seeing him or her in yourself. So you climb down, as it were, and do not feel superior.
People will say: “Why is external considering called external and internal considering called internal, if the act of external considering is internal?” Reflect for a moment, and you will plainly see why. In external considering you put yourself in the position of an external person, an outer object–namely, the other person. In internal considering you think only of yourself. The first is objective, the second is subjective. We do not see people objectively: we see them subjectively–that is, as we imagine or expect them to be. We all do violence to one another by not realizing this. In this sense, people can be mutually destructive of one another.
“Whatever keeps you awake is right: whatever puts you to sleep is wrong.”