Esotericism (XLII): Observer and observation

Esotericism (XLII): Observer and observation

- in Esotericism

1. The observer has several names: seer, watchman, witness; but he is also smeller, taster, sensor through touch and hearer. I shall use the term “observer” to cover all these. For even when we sense rough gravel or fine silk, the resulting impression, the quality of the sensation in the mind is observed.

In Views from the Real World Gurdjieff says (p 117) that “Memory, attention, observation is nothing more than observation of one centre by another.” He reiterates this adding (119): “when you see and remember what is happening in you, it means that one centre observes another. And if it can observe, it follows that there is something through which to observe”.

He says nothing more on this leaving the issue unexplained.

2. As I wrote in the previous paper nobody else, who has dealt with the “system”, comes up with anything more precise on the nature of the observer and observation.

In more than 55 years study of esoteric philosophy and application of related practices, I have been unable to observe one centre observing another. Unless G meant that there is an observer who observes the functions/processes of seeing and remembering. But if so, why not say so?

In fact G’s description is far too complicated (especially in previous and subsequent chapters) and smacks of ad hoc explanations with centres, connections, coils, various apparatus, strength of associations, gradations etc.

The structure of the physical body is complex but not complicated. That of the mind, despite its apparent chaotic contents, is simpler.

3. Elsewhere G talks of essence and personality, I dealt with these two aspects in the previous paper.

However, I take it up again because there are more questions. G adds to this duality the body (Views… p136ff). The development of each proceeds separately and depends on data available to man.

For the body these data are “heredity, geographical conditions, food and movement”. Personality is formed through what the man hears, reads and education. Essence is purely emotional with elements of heredity before the formation of personality and later, only these sensations and feelings among which he lives. This last sentence is not very clear. And how is this essence related to the emotional centres, lower and Higher?

4. As I said previously we are not told where essence and personality are located nor how exactly they develop as independent entities. Here G brings in levers which set in motion these entities and are formed around the age of 7-8 but are capable of alterations up to the age of 17.

G clarifies that essence corresponds to the “horse” in the image of the carriage and points out that the horse does not understand the language of personality. But he does not explain how one may learn the horse’s language and train it.

When “mind” is brought in (p 144), the complexity (and confusion) grows considerably. G does not say so, but it seems to me he intends it here as a synonym to personality. Otherwise the meaning is difficult.

Even more difficult becomes the notion of “separation of oneself from oneself” as is termed a further subsection. In this G says that “mind, our thinking, has nothing in common with us, with our essence implying that “we are our essence”, which, he adds, is weak and can change at any moment for it is dependent on many influences “food, surroundings, time, weather etc. But even a weak man can give the desired direction to his mind”. This is true but then essence can hardly be oneself!

5. In his system Ouspensky follows G closely adding the notion of “false” personality (ch12: A Further Record…). He sets up three triads with three elements: Many I’s, false personality and body-and-essence.

But since this is rather complicated I leave it for the next paper where we shall examine the observer also in O’s system.

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