Ouspensky’s view is that true psychological insight can only arise from conscious experience. Without awareness, everything just happens automatically — there is no choice. To orient ourselves in our own inner world and explore our own possibilities we have to start from where we actually are — and knowing where we actually are comes down to a single fundamental realization:
The only thing that anyone knows absolutely for sure is that ‘I exist’.
Everything else we know is limited and conditioned by the ‘body/mind’. Science now knows that the whole observable material universe from atoms to galaxies constitutes only about 5% of what is actually there — the rest remains unknown. The same situation is mirrored in the inner world.
Every being creates its own limited world— inside and outside. A bee lives in a bee-world, dogs live in dog-world and human beings live in what everybody agrees is the ‘real’ world — because our human brains and senses extract the same kind of partial information from a much greater world that we do not fully perceive.
And the sense of ‘I’ itself seems to be continually changing. How I feel, and how much I perceive and understand is always being affected by what appears to be happening in the outside world and in the inner mental/emotional world. What is more, ‘I’ continually forget my own existence because ‘I’ am constantly merging with the objects that attract my attention.
And yet there is also something unchanging at the centre of the feeling of ‘I’. It may seem to come and go but it is always the same. That feeling is the beginning of freedom from the limitations of the body/mind and its possibilities are literally infinite.
When the ‘I’ becomes still and comes to rest in itself it ‘realizes’ that it is One with everything— All This I Am. Otherwise the awareness of the divine, ‘real’ world remains hidden behind the ever-changing illusion that I am something else.
On the Fourth Way, psychology is the art of allowing higher energy to direct mind, feeling and sense so that they present the divine, complete and eternal world rather than the limited and changing perception of separate personal existence.
Energy comes from food and human beings live on three kinds of food. Solid food and water, air, and impressions. Absence of any one of these results in death. Great importance is given to eating healthy food, drinking pure water and breathing good quality air, but little thought is given to the quality of impressions we take in or how they are digested. Digestion is the process of refinement of raw materials to extract energy. Attention is the ‘enzyme’ that promotes the digestion of impressions to produce high quality energy.
‘Self-remembering’ begins with the simple awareness that I am here now. This is a physical and emotional sensation — it is not an idea in the mind. If allowed to develop in stillness, the sense of Self expands from the individual to the Universal.
If we learn to allow it, Nature has provided us with a brain that has the capacity to be conscious of the unity of everything. The first step is to become a witness of the personal world, a silent, non-judgmental observer of one’s own existence.
This is only possible in the present moment. Consciousness, attention and awareness exist only ‘now’. There is no need to look for answers in the past because any really vital understanding of the past is always presented in this moment, here and now.
To know our true nature it is necessary to get to know the individual body/mind but only in order to wake up to the fact that it is not ‘me’. The body/mind is designed to be an extraordinarily brilliant servant but it has come to believe it is the Owner. Real change occurs in the body and the feelings; it has very little to do with the mind.
The goal is not to struggle to shape a better personality but simply to know the truth of who I am. And that is not a process, it is a natural, spontaneous insight and there are no steps.
Sooner or later in the search for truth we encounter a paradox — and the ordinary mind cannot easily accept that something is simultaneously both true and not true; it needs a different vantage point, a different energy, to resolve the apparent conflict. Nevertheless, when a paradox arises the truth is not far away.
If you begin to be what you are you will realize everything, but to begin to be what you are you must come out of what you are not.
You are not those thoughts which are turning, turning in your mind: you are not those changing feelings: you are not the different decisions you make and the different wills you have: you are not that separate ego: Well, then, what are you?
You will find when you have come out of what you are not, that the ripple on the water is whispering to you ‘I am That’, the birds in the mango tree are singing to you ‘I am That’, the moon and the stars are shining beacons to you ‘I am That’.
You are in everything in the world and everything in the world is in you since for you it only exists because it is mirrored in you; and at the same time you are that – everything.
HH Shantananda Saraswati.