This chapter from Maurice Nicoll’s Psychological Commentaries on The Teachings of Gurdjieff and Ouspensky opened my eyes to a completely different understanding of Time and Dimension as we witness it in our normal consciousness. Dr Nicoll says that such a study of new ideas expands the reaches of our mind, and serves to increase our consciousness, allowing us to think in a new way. This is indeed a primary aim of ours as students of Life.
“In connection with a remark that the feeling of Eternity enters into Self-Remembering, and does not enter into self-observation, we can remind ourselves of some of the ideas on Time which are accessory to this teaching. There are three visible accessible dimensions and three invisible and ordinarily inaccessible dimensions. From this point of view the real world is six-dimensional. Owing to our limited senses we know only a three-dimensional world moving in Time and this we take as the real world–that is, as reality, as all that is or can be. We base our thoughts on this visible three-dimensional world moving in Time. That is, our way of thinking is moulded on this reality which is evident to our limited senses. It is, however, necessary to change our way of thinking if any development in the level of Being or any increase of conciousness is the aim.
This teaching, as it is so often emphasized, is to make us think in a new way. Let me here ask you: have you begun yet through contact with the ideas of this Work to think in a new way? For this to become possible the mind must be changed by new ideas, by means of which, hitherto unused connections are opened. In this way new and wider realities of the mind appear beyond the given narrow realities of the senses, with a corresponding increase of consciousness. Briefly put, one is aware of more than one was, and this in many unusual directions. Not only is the general range and grasp of the mind increased, but the awareness of oneself. For instance, to be told that one is asleep and mechanical and that one does not know oneself are new ideas. When applied practically, through self-observation, these ideas open up many new connections in the mind–in fact, so much so that the whole conception and feeling of oneself begins to alter and a new self may become perceptible, hidden at some distance behind what we have up to now thought to be ourselves and the only possible form of ourselves.
Let us take this point in connection with dimensions. The 4th dimension is that of Time. We do not see Time or ourselves in Time. We do not see the Time-Bodies of ourselves or of things. We think the past is dead. Our lives are living lines in living Time. Owing to our relation to Time, however, we see only a point in Time and then another and so on, and we call them present moments. Notice well that our five senses only work in the present moment, only register the present moment–not the past or the future to see this clearly is the starting-point, in my opinion, of being able to understand something about dimensions beyond the senses. Do you realize clearly that you can only see or handle or taste an apple in the present moment? You cannot do so a moment ago or a moment hence–that is, in the past or in the future. So you are limited to this doubtful thing called the present moment, and all else we call past or future and regard as having no real existence. So we limit all possible existence to the present moment and imagine God exists only in it. This is called in this teaching, however, a cross-section of Time. Yet we are never in contact with this fleeting present moment to which we confine all existence. It is actual–yet it is doubtful–not to the senses but to consciousness. Our senses relate us to a present moment but our consciousness does not. We are not conscious in this present moment of the senses. It is too small and too quick to be properly conscious in. Our consciousness, working above sense, is a mingled confused thing, composed of past, present and anticipated future. By memory and by imagination we tend to live behind or in front of the present moment and cannot crowd ourselves into it. So we are never really in the external world as registered by the senses. They render things as it were like a succession of photographs made to follow in moving rapid succession, like a film. Yet, strange to say, each present moment is eternal. The present moment is both in Time and in Eternity. It is the meeting-place of Time and Eternity. Eternity enters every present moment in moving Time, at right angles to it. That is why, sometimes, in a state of Self-Remembering–that is, in the 3rd Stare of Consciousness–we feel Eternity. That is also why some things in the past stand straight out of Time–often trivial things. This is because at any moment, into any quiet unremarkable ordinary moment, the dimension of Eternity enters and we may happen to become conscious of it.
Man is both in Time and in Eternity. Eternity is vertical to Time–and this is the direction of Self-Remembering–the feeling of oneself now. Every now is eternal. To remember oneself the feeling of now must enter––I here now—I myself now–I distinct from past or future–the newness of myself–I now. And if the act is successful you will know for yourself that Eternity is always in now and can be experienced as a different taste from Time.
Inner Life Exercise
from my notes on a talk by Vernon Howard
The first person that I speak to after reading this, will bring me back to myself. I will be doubly aware – first of my physical state – the sound of my voice, the expression on my face; and next of my inner thoughts and feelings.