One of the statements of esoteric psychology explains that ordinarily, a human being is fragmented, namely it hasn’t a unified “I” developed in itself, but a whole of different and often contradictory little “I’s”. This condition is called fragmentation of personality. To simplify this statement to the highest degree, what we usually perceive as ourselves is false personality – it’s not who/what we really are.
For an individual who begins to seek in this field, this could seem a rough statement: how is it possible? All what I perceive about myself, feel, think, my considerations, my points of view… all this, is not real? It’s not me? Very difficult to digest, even for the most open- minded.
But, at the end, we still perceive ourselves, we still know ourselves to exist. That’s a fact, that is our experience, and it would be impossible if we were only an illusion. This means that, beyond all illusion, there’s something more that can be, and it’s experienced by ourselves as an individual “me”.
What do we feel about ourselves? What is the “sense of self” we perceive when we think about ourselves? There’s a word that’s in vogue in these times and that, even if used in various ways and for various purposes, is applied to this experience, which is remarkable: Oneness. Indeed, if properly intended, it can be used to point to just this sense of self and this experience, to the concept of unity- oneness.
In fact, the real sense of self doesn’t come to pass through a concept read in a book, but through unity, such as it has been taught by all the ancient and modern paths towards an effective, and not illusory self- realization.
Presence, self- remembering, power of the Now…. above all terms, everyone of us should be one, just one, such as one is our body. But it’s not so: there is always, even in the best of cases, at least a dozen of “ourselves” which coexist inside of us at the same time. There’s no permanent center of gravity within us able to maintain a state of unity. We are susceptible to change states of mind, emotions, and ideas every moment, nevermind if we notice or admit this, it happens, denying us to experience ourselves as a unity – and this is a pity.
There’s a part of the famous Ouspensky book, “In Search for the Miraculous” that, from the first time I read it, grasped my attention because, more than any other word written in this book, it expressed the condition of dispersion in which people usually live. I would like to quote this excerpt. Try to feel it, not just read with your eyes and mind:
‘I was once walking along the Liteiny towards the Nevsky, and in spite of all my efforts I was unable to keep my attention on self-remembering. The noise, movement, everything distracted me. Every minute I lost the thread of attention, found it again, and then lost it again. At last I felt a kind of ridiculous irritation with myself and I turned into the street on the left having firmly decided to keep my attention on the fact that I would remember myself at least for some time, at any rate until I reached the following street. I reached the Nadejdinskaya without losing the thread of attention except, perhaps, for short moments. Then I again turned towards the Nevsky realizing that, in quiet streets, it was easier for me not to lose the line of thought and wishing therefore to test myself in more noisy streets. I reached the Nevsky still remembering myself, and was already beginning to experience the strange emotional state of inner peace and confidence which comes after great efforts of this kind. Just round the corner on the Nevsky was a tobacconist’s shop where they made my cigarettes. Still remembering myself I thought I would call there and order some cigarettes.’
‘Two hours later I woke up in the Tavricheskaya, that is, far away. I was going by izvostchik to the printers. The sensation of awakening was extraordinarily vivid. I can almost say that I came to. I remembered everything at once. How I had been walking along the Nadejdinskaya, how I had been remembering myself, how I had thought about cigarettes, and how at this thought I seemed all at once to fall and disappear into a deep sleep.’
At the same time, while immersed in this sleep, I had continued to perform consistent and expedient actions. I left the tobacconist, called at my flat in the Liteiny, telephoned to the printers. I wrote two letters. Then again I went out of the house. I walked on the left side of the Nevsky up to the Gostinoy Dvor intending to go to the Offitzerskaya. Then I had changed my mind as it was getting late. I had taken an izvostchik and was driving to the Kavalergardskaya to my printers. And on the way while driving along the Tavricheskaya I began to feel a strange uneasiness, as though I had forgotten something – and suddenly I remembered that I had forgotten to remember myself.’
We are not used to be only one, but a legion of so many different “I’s” that our psychological field becomes a battlefield of contradictions, pushing us to think, feel and do things that are diametrically opposite, and these shifts happen in less than a moment.
But, if we listen (feel, observe) with attention and we remain in this state of listening, at one point a strange feeling, almost imperceptible, will arise. A feeling that doesn’t need explanations, verifications, or words to be identified for what it is.
Usually people ask me how they could recognize this state when it happens, but it’s not something definable, such as love, when it arises isn’t definable, it’s only something that can be experienced – but when it happens, we have no doubts about it’s autenticity: it’s the “sense of self”, something that transcends the ego, the person, tastes and emotions to show a new field, a field of existence that doesn’t change.
That is the state of self- remembering, the real self- remembering, the sense of self that, if often experienced, brings us to a point from where we can observe our body, our mind, our emotions and even the emotions of others.
And this is just what all the ancient texts related to spiritual paths state to be the nature that hasn’t anything to do with the body and emotions: we, on one side, and body and emotions on the other. Even Christianity speaks about it, calling it “Soul”.
And that is the meaning of Gurdjieff’s words that we haven’t a Soul (remember that he was a Christian): we don’t remember ourselves, and that means that we are not connected with this sense of self – this sense of self is not a crystallized part of us.
This sense of self is the real object of research in the field of self- devlopment, knowing and experiencing our real “I”, the real one because it is unique and permanent, the aim of the path…. at least, the first great aim.