2. It Is Not You
I was lucky enough to meet someone who had studied the methods of the great Russian psychologist, Gurdjieff, in London, and who was in the process of helping start a school in the United States, in Virginia. I studied with him for awhile, I went to see the school for a couple of weekends and I did some workshops. They studied Self-observation, which in the Writings of Emanuel Swedenborg is referred to as reflection. They used tasks. Gurdjieff said, "Knowledge alone is nothing," which means, "Faith alone is nothing. Knowledge alone will not transform you, you must do it." So, he would teach you a little and then he would give you a task and say, "Now go on out and do it. If you do it, then you will know it. You will understand it." So I give tasks with my lectures. You don't have to do them, of course, but if you have a chance to do the task you may find that you will come to better understand this thing called Self-observation or reflection.
My hope for this class is that you come to truly 100% hate yourself. Now that sounds really terrible, but it isn't. As a psychologist I am meant to get people to express themselves and accept themselves, etc. But you never hear a psychologist say, "I want you to accept your neurosis, or express your psychosis. Keep that negative thinking! Paranoia is something you should value!" Even psychology agrees that you must come to shun your negative self.
We know that some people put the feeling of their life in their body and they are called Hedonists. If it feels good, they say it is good. If it tastes good they claim it is good. They say, "When I die it is all over and I'm gone." Of course that is not true. But his feeling of life is in himself so he is self centered. He thinks, "If it's not good for me, it is not good for anyone." But we know that you have to draw up outside of thinking that you are your body. And a thing called reflection demands that you do something even harder than that, which is to draw up so that you no longer think your thoughts are your own, nor are your feelings your own. Your thoughts and feelings flow into you. They flow into the self and you can see them in the exterior man. Each of us is capable of dividing himself or herself. We can come up and draw our attention or put what Gurdjieff calls our "feeling of I" or feeling of life, into our interior man. And that is what reflection is - keeping the feeling in the interior man while you observe what your exterior man is perceiving.
So you can see a thought come in, a negative thought like, "I wonder why my wife is doing that? She makes me so mad!" Now if you are there in the self, identified with it, you think, "she's making me mad," but if you can step up with effort and attention you can see the hells coming in. You can't regenerate automatically, you need to use some effort and attention on yourself. The hell called Hate is coming in and it is going to divide you and your wife. You can see that it uses a thing called Falsity, which is that "she is making me angry." So you can watch this come into the exterior man, but this is not you. You do not own it.
My aim is to teach Self-observation so that you do not identify with your negative emotions. The Writings indicate one use of reflection is to not attribute evil to oneself. Self-observation is simply that. To observe the self and not identify with those things coming into it. 'It' is not you. You have dirty thoughts, they come in, you have angry thoughts which come in, but they are not you. Get back into the interior man. Swedenborg first mentioned in the introduction to The Word Explained what he refers to as "double thought." He was with the good spirits as to his interior man, watching the bad spirits with his exterior man. He was looking at them. His exterior man, his body and thoughts were under their control but he was in his interior man watching them, knowing that "They are not me."
Swedenborg was allowed to speak with the good spirits and of course we cannot do that, but there is, nonetheless, definite instruction that we can begin to separate or divide ourselves.
Now why would you want to do that - to separate from the thoughts and feelings of your external man? The reason you want to separate is because as long as you are in this exterior man you don't see his nature. Evil will convince you that falsity is truth and that evil is good. I will give you an example from the past.
There I was sitting down reading the newspaper. The kids were playing around and making a lot of noise. I have this devil called Impatience and when he entered me I turned around and yelled, "Will you be quiet?! You make me so angry! Now get in that room! Didnt I tell you to be quiet a hundred times before!?"
I sat down again and told myself, "They need that discipline. It's good for them! They need to learn more respect for adults." I thought my state was good. I was in it so how could I see it as bad? I couldn't.
So another day I was again in that state, but I had also been trying to practice the task I am going to give you, and when that impatience entered, just as I turned around to do the usual yelling at the kids, the task helped me realize that good spirits were with them. The kids were having a good time playing together. So what if they were a little noisy? (Maybe there were loud good spirits with them!) My hells were just about to blame them of evil and send them to their room for my hell. When I could see that, and what was entering me, I no longer thought it was good for my children. I thought it was horrible. It was what Gurdjieff speaks of as the "terror of the situation." Until you have seen the terror of the situation, you have not divided yourself.
Swedenborg says you must come to "loathe the self." Over and over again in the Spiritual Diary he comments and says, "I was horrified at the nature of my external man." And it is horrible! But the beautiful part is, 'IT is not me. I am capable of being in my interior man, where the Lord can come in, and rather than punishing my children I can learn to let heavenly loves flow through to them. It is beautiful that one does not have to live with this exterior man all one's life. I don't have to be impatient! I don't have to be embarrassed! I don't have to be shy! 'It' is shy. Gurdjieff makes all students stop saying "I" as in "I am angry," or, "I am shy." He has you say, "'It' is angry," or "'It' is embarrassed," so you don't identify it with yourself.
Once you draw back into observation you start to do something significant; you start to take away your affection and your protection from the exterior man. You no longer have to justify his behavior. You no longer have to make 'IT' seem good. You can see 'IT' for what 'IT' is. NIT' is terrible. There is nothing in the self that is nice. 'IT' only wants to destroy you and others. It is vitally important to awaken and observe this reality. And remember, the self that you observe in the exterior man (as you draw back into your interior man) is not you. 'IT' is not the real you. Truly, we must separate from our negative self.
This separation is what Gurdjieff calls "dividing yourself." Swedenborg also stresses this. He says that a person cannot regenerate (i.e. grow spiritually) unless he begins to realize that the thoughts and feelings that flow into him are not him.
These evil spirits around me, say depression, or boredom, anger, frustration, or impatience are not me. Each of them feels like me and it sure seems to be me, but it is not me. It is from the hells. And you have to stop attributing them to yourself in order to regenerate. 'IT' is not you! The way Gurdjieff says it is that you must stop identifying with the thoughts and the feelings and the actions of the exterior man in order to transform. Swedenborg has told us that from the Lord in the Writings.
The doctrine of reflection teaches that you can start to feel that "this is not me." You can reflect from your interior man and see that your exterior man is receiving these evils. When we do this we can choose to just see them for what they are, and not allow our propriums to be activated by them.
"There is nothing from without a man that entering into him can defile him, but the things which come out of him, those are they that defile him." (Mark 7:15)
The things that flow into the exterior man - anger, hate, anything - they don't defile, they just come into the exterior man. There is a description given in the Word of the exterior man and the nature of the self. If you feel, "Yes, I have some bad habits, but I am basically all right," you haven't started to observe the exterior man. He is not basically all right. He is filthy, there is no question about it. Every love he has is filthy, from himself, and you better start watching your exterior man until you become horrified because as long as you feel he is basically all right you are still in the self, you are still identified with him. You think he is you! But he is not you. You are better than that. Here is a description of the exterior man: "Every imagination of the thoughts of his heart are only evil continually." (Gen.6:5) That is not basically okay!
We feel we are all right from being in the exterior man, or in the self. The interior man is okay because it can receive other things - the Lord can enter into us there - but the self will is not okay and is where evil spirits come in. Evils do not defile a man unless they enter into the will, such as when he says, "Yes, that's me and I like it," and attributes it to himself and keeps it in his will. Evil cannot defile him if he really sees and believes that it does not originate in him. His task is to keep 'IT' separate from himself. 'IT' cannot defile him if he recognizes it for what it is and refuses to own it or identify with it.
You are sure to see emotions such as anger come in. You may come home and find your children yelling and screaming, or maybe they just spilled milk or something - and sure, you can see anger coming in. It always will. That's what your heredity is, your heredity takes things that way. 'IT' is your inherited way of acting, as Gurdjieff says, mechanically. Behaving mechanically takes no effort and no attention; you just do it. The hells love to be with you. You don't have to work to get them with you, they just come right in. But if you don't want them with you, you have to exert some effort and attention to recognize the evil and remove your protection and justification from them by that acknowledgement. The Writings say:
The reason why evil is appropriated to man is that he believes and persuades himself that what he thinks and does is from himself. If he believed, as is really the case, then evil would not be appropriated to him...for the moment that the evil flows in he would reflect that it was from evil spirits with him, and as soon as he felt this the angels would avert and reject it. (Divine Providence 320)
As long as you are attached to this thing called the self, you have affection for it. You justify it and you protect it. The angels cannot take it away from you because you have the freedom to have that in yourself. But if you can draw up and take that protection away and see it is not you, and you wish to be free from it, then the angels can help remove it from you because you have freely chosen to separate from those evils flowing in. Then the angels can work for you. The power of this thought is that "evil spirits cannot endure being reflected upon."
When you are in anger you don't even see its nature. You feel it, you justify it, you feel it is anger, but you feel it's important, and good, and justified. You feel you have a right to be angry. Gurdjieff would say, "You have the right not to be angry." Do you think you have the right to be jealous? You have the right to not be jealous. You have the right to not be bored. You have a right to have this exterior man, this loud and vexatious self, changed and made quiescent. You have a right to have good flow into you. So stop thinking of the right to be angry. Think rather, "I have the right not to be angry."
To believe that you have a right to express negative emotions is actually to make yourself a prisoner. You will be locked in a prison of negative emotions. You need to draw back into the interior man to see that you are there. If you don't do this, you don't see that you are in prison at all, and of course, you do not want to escape.
Self-observation, drawing back into the interior man, allows us to clearly view what is going on in the exterior man. It shows us how defiling thoughts and feelings are constantly flowing in to us. It enables us to free ourselves from personal identification with them. We do not have to get sucked into those thoughts and feelings. We do not have to accept them as our own. We do not have to get locked in that prison. There is a way of escape.
If you have taken the first step and drawn back into the interior man to observe yourself, the time will come when you truly desire to escape from the prison of negative emotions. You will look for a way out; you will come and ask for the map; that's when we go to the Writings, that is when we go to the Word. But most of the prisoners don't even know yet that they are in prison. They are happy. There is a hypnotist who says to us, "There are no walls around you." But there are, and you find that out when you notice that you can't move, and that you can't get away from anger or some emotion that controls you instead of you controlling it. You want to be free and you need to know how to get free.
I am going to give you a task called "Sensing." It is putting your attention on one small part of your body until you can feel some sensation there and continue to sustain that sensation. This is one of the many tasks used in Gurdjieff schools which was taken from methods of the Monasteries. It sounds very simple when I describe it, but actually it is very, very difficult, especially in negative states. What is difficult about it is to act consciously and with attention rather than mechanically from habit and heredity.
The task was taken from the idea that man can divide into the interior man, that he can divide his attention, and that he can direct his love. Since he can do that, he can start to separate from this thing called self, but it takes effort and attention. The first of regeneration is compulsion, not will, and compulsion takes effort and attention. The self, on the other hand, is mechanical; it comes automatically. So when the hells are coming in we need to do something during that active state.
Swedenborg talks about effort and attention as "self- compulsion." At first we do not have any real will, just the mechanical drives that we have inherited. We do things automatically, defensively, selfishly without a whole lot of thought in between. So we need to exert "self-compulsion." We need to act deliberately, to use effort and attention in order to observe mechanical behavior and eventually to stop it. To the extent that we strive to do this, the Lord gradually builds real will in us - "His will" or "Real I."
That's why sensing is a useful exercise; it gives us a point of focus when we observe hell beginning to flow into our exterior man. It gives us an opportunity to do something that takes effort and attention during an active state.
It's like a technique used by the Israelitish people. They would sew a gold stripe around their robe to remind them of their aim.... What's your aim? Always, what is your aim? And if you are in anger, or some other negative emotion, remember your aim now. That is the time when you want to transform or work, not just when you are in church. You want to stop letting the hells come through you. Sensing may be a reminding factor for you as a task. A reminder, especially when a negative state is coming in, that you do want to work.
For now, divide your attention just to prove you can do it. Listen to some sound that has been there the whole time, but now I want you to focus your attention on it. You can read this or listen and hear that sound at the same time, only now you have to use a little effort and attention. Now, rub your forehead. Now put your attention on the sensation in your forehead as you rub it. Can you feel it? There is no question but that you can divide your attention. So keep your attention there and also go on reading or listening to me. You can do that, can't you? Gurdjieff Schools have you divide your attention six or seven ways and once this is proved as something you can do, you begin to feel maybe you have more choices than to be totally identified with one emotion that is coming into you called anger.
You can divide your attention other ways too. You can be angry and focus on your forehead and on your nose at the same time. That doesn't seem very important, does it? But it takes the edge off the anger. You know the difference between a razor blade that's brand new and an old one that you use to scrape paint off windows and such? You can hold the dull one in a different way. And you can hold emotions differently when you divide attention. When the anger comes in all of a sudden you can start dividing your attention all over the place. Then the anger isn't getting your total attention. You are sucking energy away from the hells, or at least not giving them your total self or attributing them to your self by identifying with them totally.
You are starting to do something consciously. Why do you do it? Not because it is a technique, but because you wish to observe this exterior man so that you can be free, so that you can see him from truth. But it takes conscious work. It is not a trick. But it's important because the Lord asked us to regenerate and He asked us to reflect. But He wants us to do something during the active state as well.
The task itself will be to focus your attention on your hand. When you notice that your attention is not on your hand, just put it back again. They say without training you can only do this for about two minutes. Gurdjieff had students say things in their head or do things with their hands for seven years because they wanted to be conscious every minute of their life. They didn't want to just go and live, as they say, from the world. They wanted to constantly keep in their mind that we are meant to be living from truth. And how can a person remember this? By sensing or by some reminding factor that no matter what happens we want to work.
Maybe your new car suddenly stops and you can't get it started. Now you have a right to be angry, right? If you keep sensing at the same time you can let 'IT' be angry because the part of you that is sensing is also watching the nature of this thing called the self (or 'IT') and what flows into it. You start to see the nature of falsity, rationalization, and justification. This part, the part of you that is making this new effort and attention, is closer to your interior man and because this part is making effort and attention for the purpose of regeneration, it will also watch your self and you can start to separate from that self.
Who is still sensing?