Understanding Shocks and Self-Remembering in the Work
(What follows was written by Maurice Nicoll in Psychological Commentaries on the Teachings of G.I. Gurdjieff and P.D. Ouspensky, book 3:)
“It has been said that Self-Remembering gives a shock to the whole Being and actually provides better food for the cells of the body. But we do not give this shock to ourselves ordinarily and for that reason it is called the First Conscious Shock, because it has to be done deliberately. It is not done in nature. The natural shock that is given to the body is the act of breathing. The act of breathing gives a shock to the Food Octave starting at 768 and transforming itself successively until it reaches Si 12. This is a mechanical shock. Now the First Conscious Shock is what was always emphasized in the earlier part of the teaching as the most important and the most practical thing that we can do. We must learn what it means to remember ourselves and practice it every day at least more than once. Since it is so important it is always a good thing to remind ourselves about it and once more to study it.
“There are many different ways of remembering oneself but in every case it means not identifying with something and so separating from something by feeling one is different from it. There is no mechanical way of Self-Remembering. It is, speaking on a lower scale, like saying there is no mechanical way of self-observation. Both acts require intelligence and consciousness and vision. A monk may mutter prayers all day long and miss the mark completely. It might indeed be very much better for him if he took in impressions at a particular moment and did not mutter mechanical prayers. On one occasion, when Mr. O. was asked: “What is this pill that Sly Man makes and swallows?” he said that one meaning was that Sly Man remembers himself in different ways under different conditions. …”
“Now we know that this Work teaches that the only place where we can interfere with our machine in a right way is to give it the First Conscious Shock, or the shock of Self-Remembering. That is why aim must connect with Self-Remembering. To try to carry out aim without any state of Self-Remembering accompanying it is to try to do from the wrong place, from the machine itself…
“O. said more definitely about Sly Man’s pill that it was different kinds of Self-Remembering. He said: “You must find it out for yourselves gradually. It has to do with different influences, one kind for one person, and so different for each person. At different hours of the day it is different for each person.” This means that we must learn to remember ourselves in different ways. It is one and the same thing only in the sense that it means that you separate from and cease to identify with something that is getting hold of you. Only in that respect it is always the same. It is always the same because it is a lifting of oneself above the level of ordinary ‘I’s, above the stream of thoughts, pre-occupations and moods, but the direction that it takes will be different. Self-Remembering always means a fuller state of consciousness, but you do not get a fuller state of consciousness by always looking at things in the same way, because that will either miss the mark or lead to mechanicalness. If one always looks through an eastern window, one will not see the sun all day. If you are in a bad state you remember yourself in one way, and when in a good state you have to remember yourself in another way and it is often more difficult. But in every case you do not give full belief to your state but to something you could be and indeed once were–something you have forgotten.
Inner Life Exercise
Remember yourself in different ways, several times throughout your day.