by Maurice Nicoll
from Psychological Commentaries on the Teaching of Gurdjieff and Ouspensky
lone tree
One of the first things we have to understand in working on our-
selves is that we have three centres—Intellectual, Emotional and
Physical. These three centres are not in harmony. Observe for yourself
that you can think one thing, feel another thing and do another thing.
What you do is through Moving Centre. Unless you can understand
that this apparent contradiction belongs to your composition, you will
always be in a muddle. The next thing to understand about yourself
is that you are not one person but many different ‘I’s that inhabit different
centres. You have ‘I’s in Intellectual Centre, ‘I’s in Emotional
Centre, ‘I’s in Moving Centre and ‘I’s in Instinctive Centre.
Now I want to talk to you again about different ‘I’s in you. Some
of you have ‘I’s that are very dangerous to you if you allow them to
take charge. For example, some of you have ‘I’s in you that can make
you quite ill if you identify with them as they come round in the turning
wheel of your inner life and have not observed them and have no
power of separating from them. These ‘I’s usually live in the negative
parts of centres, especially in the negative part of Emotional Centre.
They can make you ill, weak, tearful, full of self-pity. A person rather
governed by such ‘I’s, who makes no effort to separate from them, will
tend to be rather a pathetic person.
The next thing I am speaking about is expressing unpleasant
emotions, nasty emotions, in the sense of rather venomous remarks.
These ‘I’s are very dangerous to you in the Work. You should all learn
to know about them and beware of them. Sometimes they are far away
from you and sometimes they draw near to you and, as it were, stand
round you and seek to take blood from you—i.e. they take force from
you. If you give way to such ‘I’s internally you will probably be always
ill. A great deal of illness and even worse is due to your going with
wrong ‘I’s in yourself. Here you must be strong, more conscious and
more intelligent. Remember we have ‘I’s in us that may destroy our
lives. The difficulty is that nearly everyone takes himself as one
unvarying person and cannot through self-observation see that this
one unvarying person that we take ourselves as is a pure fiction and
it is called Imaginary ‘I’. If you cannot break yourself up first of
all into three centres and then into many different ‘I’s through self-
observation, you cannot do this Work. Now why is it so difficult?
First, because we think that we are always one person—which is
Imaginary ‘I’—and secondly because our vanity, which belongs to
False Personality, is always working in such a way as to keep us in
the sense that we are one and the same person at all times. Do you
understand that saying, realizing, observing and acknowledging
through self-observation that one is not one person but many people is
one of the great steps in the Work that can lead to the establishment

in us of an entirely new development of ourselves? We blame ourselves
in a dreary way for not having acted rightly or spoken rightly but we
do not see that this is because different ‘I’s were using us at all times.
So we come back to this ancient parable about Man being like a house
in disorder because the Master is absent, and any of the servants in
the house can use the telephone in his name.

So the Work teaches first of all separation from negative ‘I’s because

they are not you—they are the result of imitating other people, what
you have read, what you have been taught, and what you have
imagined about yourself. All this gives rise to many ‘I’s in you which
are not really you. So the Work says: “This is not I.” When you are
in a rage, when you are in a negative state, when you are full of self-
.pity, you have to create the feeling and power of saying: “This is not
I.” You have to be able to realize and acknowledge that your rage is
not you, that your depression is not you, that your jealousy, your
negative state, is not you. Here lies the core of the Work, for all of us
at our present stage. Sometimes I act it to you all by saying:” Where
is my rage?” Someone says: “It has gone to the laundry.” So I say:
“Where is my deep pity of myself?” and the answer is: “We have six
but they are all at the laundry.” Now, you know, to define the level
we are at, we are told that our being is characterized by multiplicity—
i.e. that we have no real being at all. We only have many ‘I’s in us
and we have no real unity. We can only create unity in ourselves by
separating from these different ‘I’s and through seeing that they are
not us. The Work lays special emphasis on what kind of ‘I’s to separate
from and especially it speaks of negative emotion and all its subtle
forms, such as depression, hopelessness, feeling you are no good. Do
you understand that such negative emotions are really ‘I’s that wish
to drag you down ? We have therefore from this point of view Heaven
and Hell within us. Everything that is to do with negative emotions
is to do with Hell. But all the ‘I’s that wish to work in us have to do
with Heaven—i.e. another state of ourselves which will lead us to
meet the Master or Real I. People are eaten by negative emotions
all day long, whether they are by themselves or in the company of
other people. It is as if you had a boat and there were an island not
so distant, but all the time you are saying: “I do not understand how
to sail a boat, I always get seasick, the sea looks rough, I cannot see
the island properly,” and then, so to speak, you burst into tears because
no one seems to show you how to sail to this island. If you get from
this Work sailing directions as to how to manage your ship, which is
the Work-teaching, then you will find that you may be able to get to
this island. So try to transcend your problems, try to transcend your
negative emotions—try, above all, to remember yourself.
Finally, let us remark that every act of “not being identified” saves
energy and insulates you from the effects of life.


  1. Gina on July 19, 2017 at 4:54 am

    I find it so remarkable that I read this post today after listening to a lecture by Vernon Howard, in which the same Truth was expressed … The expression was different by these two men, but the essential message is the same, today as it was decades, or even centuries ago. Mankind has been hijacked by negative, evil forces that rule and direct the minds and actions of each and all of us. No one is exempt or isolated from these elements, yet we are each responsible for dis-allowing them to continue to rule our lives.

    It is only through the observation of our unsavory and unconscious life that we become compelled to move out of this horror house. No one can pick up a hot potato and not drop it immediately. The problem is we don’t recognize what is burning us and what we allow to be expressed through us to those we come in contact with daily. Vernon Howard said, “Consciousness stops unconscious behaviour.” It is each of our individual responsibilities to come wide awake to our actual condition. Dr Nicoll has given us plenty to work on to promote our escape as has Mr Howard with his countless inner-life exercises. Thank God for providing us a way out of our human predicament!!

  2. Leo on July 19, 2017 at 11:34 am

    This gave me a great jolt. Who wants to be dragged down by negative emotions? Not me! NO! No way. There is a lot of work to be done, but what more could you ask for than the clear and concise encouragement written here. Thank God for this work. Let’s get on with it.

  3. Steve on July 19, 2017 at 12:23 pm

    Negative Emotions, you have had your way with me for way to long. Good bye, and if you show up again, it’s, Good bye again. Good bye! (If a person walks on the sunny side of the street negative emotions can’t follow).

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