O’s Notes on Decision to Work

 

 

Conscience: A Search for the Truth
by P. D. Ouspensky

 

From part 1 of chapter 5

 

Notes on Decision to Work  137
Notes on Work on Oneself  140

 

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Notes on Decision to Work

 

Think very seriously before you decide for yourself with the idea of changing yourself, i.e. to work with the definite aim of becoming conscious and of developing connection with higher centres. This work admits of no compromise and it requires a great amount of self-discipline and readiness to obey all rules and particularly, direct instructions.

 

    Think very seriously: are you really ready and willing to obey, and do you fully understand the necessity for it? There is no going back. If you agree and then go back, you will lose everything that you have acquired up to that time, and you will lose more really, because all that you acquired will turn into something wrong in you. There is no remedy against this.

 

    Understanding of the necessity for obeying rules and direct instructions must be based on the realization of your mechanicalness and your helplessness. If this realization is not strong enough, you had better wait and occupy yourself with ordinary work; study of the system, work in groups, etc. If you do this work sincerely and remember all rules, it will bring you to the realization of your state and your needs. But you must not delay too long. If you want to come to real work you must hurry. You must understand that the opportunity that exists today may not come your way again. You may lose all your chances by hesitating and waiting too long.

 

    If you decide to work and accept all that comes in the work, you must learn to think quickly. If you are offered a task you must answer at once that you accept it. If you hesitate or take time to answer, the offer of the task will be withdrawn and it will not be repeated. You may be given time before actually doing what you were told to do but you must accept the task at once. An attempt to talk things over, an ironical, suspicious or negative attitude, fear or lack of confidence, these will make the task impossible at once. If you feel hesitation about the task offered to you, think about your mechanicalness, think about your negativeness, about your self-will — but think quickly. You can do nothing against your weak sides by yourself. The tasks offered to you have the aim of helping you. If you hesitate or refuse them, you refuse help. This must be quite clear in your mind.

 

    The realization of your helplessness and your deep sleep must be permanent in you. You can strengthen it by constantly reminding yourself of your nothingness, of your meanness, of your weakness of all possible sorts. You have absolutely nothing to be proud of. You have nothing to base your judgement on. You can see, if you are sincere with yourself, all the blunders and all the mistakes which you made when you tried to act by yourself. You cannot think rightly. You cannot feel rightly. You need constant help, and you can have it. But you must pay for it — at least, by not arguing.You have to do gigantic work if you want to become different. How can you ever hope to get anything if you hesitate and argue on the first steps, or do not even realize the necessity for help, or become suspicious and negative?

 

    If you want to work seriously you have to conquer many things in yourself. You cannot carry with yourself your prejudices, your fixed opinions, your personal identifications or animosities.
    But at the same time try to understand that personal is not always wrong. Personal can even help in the work but personal can be very dangerous too, if it is not cleared by the struggle with identification and by the realization of your mechanicalness and your weakness.

 

    Try to understand the necessity for deliberate suffering and conscious effort. These are the only two things that can change you and bring you to your aim.
    Deliberate suffering does not mean suffering inflicted on you by yourself. It means attitude towards suffering. Suffering may come as a result of your feelings, thoughts and actions connected with your task; it may come by itself as a result of your own faults or as a result of other people’s actions, attitudes or feelings. But what is important is your attitude towards it. It becomes deliberate if you do not rebel against it, if you do not try to avoid it, if you do not accuse anybody, if you accept it as a necessary part of your work at the moment, and as a means for attaining your aim.

 

    Conscious effort is the effort based on understanding; understanding of its necessity first of all, and understanding of causes which make it necessary. The chief cause for conscious effort is your need for breaking the walls of mechanicalness, of self-will and of lack of self-remembering which constitute your being at present.
    In order to understand better the necessity for accepting tasks given to you without hesitation, the necessity for deliberate suffering and conscious effort, think about ideas which brought you to the work, think about the first realization of your mechanicalness and the first realization that you know nothing. In the beginning you realized this and you came for help, but now you doubt whether you must really do as you are told. And you try to find ways to evade it, to stand on your own judgement and on your own understanding. You understood clearly once, that your judgement and your understanding are false and weak, but now you try to keep them again. You do not want to give them up. Well, you can keep them, but you must understand that with them you will keep all that is false and weak in yourself. There are no half measures. You must decide. Do you want to work or not?

 

 

Notes on Work on Oneself

 

Try to remember and keep in your mind constantly on all the lines on which you have to work. You have to work on mind, on consciousness, on emotions and on will. Try to understand that each line of work needs special attention, special methods and special understanding. After some time all four will begin to help one another and later they will merge into one, but in the beginning the four lines must go separately.

 

    Try to understand the work on mind. To do this work you must constantly revise all ideas of the system referring to man and the universe, and particularly those referring to psychology, the study of emotions, many ‘I’s, the division of man, false personality, permanent ‘I’, esotericism, schools and methods of school work. Keep your mind on these ideas or at least return to them as often as possible. Your mind must never be idle. At every possible moment you must reflect on one or another idea, on one or another aspect of the system and methods.

 

    Try to understand the necessity for introducing the methods and principles of the work in your personal life and first of all the necessity for right thinking on all personal questions and their possible relation to your work. Without this, you will never reach unity. You cannot allow one part of yourself to think wrongly and hope that another part will think rightly.

 

    Understanding of principles, rules and methods of school work is one of the most important parts of the work on mind. Mind must be trained not to hesitate in its choice between right and wrong, must understand perfectly right relations to me, to other people in the work and to the people outside.Mind must understand that in the very beginning of serious work on oneself one gives up one’s freedom. Certainly it is an illusionary freedom, but when one puts oneself under the laws of the work, one is naturally under more laws than someone outside the work.
    Try to understand the meaning of silence in the work, the meaning of sincerity and the meaning of truth.

 

    One can never expect to get anything from the work if one cannot keep silence when it is not necessary to speak for the sake of the work. People generally talk too much, talk for their own gratification, from self-pride, from vanity, from desire to live again through pleasant or painful experiences; they talk because they cannot resist identification with talking or because they do not realize that they should not talk in this particular way or on this particular subject. Very often the special attraction of talking, for them, is in the fact that they know that they should not talk.

 

    I do not even mean talking to people outside the work. That must have been dealt with long before any possibility of serious work on oneself arises.
    What I mean is that one must be very guarded even in speaking to one’s friends in the work, unless one is told by me to speak.

 

    Also, one cannot expect anything if one cannot be sincere with oneself and with me. With other people in the work one can have a mutual arrangement regarding sincerity about everything or about particular subjects, but this can only be done with my approval and with my complete knowledge of what is said.
    Further, one cannot expect to get anything from the work if one is afraid or reluctant to speak the truth to me even without being told to do so.
    You must understand that nobody who wishes to remain in the work can ask another person in the work to keep something secret from me, and nobody can give the promise to keep anything secret. This is a very important point.

 

    One must always be ready to tell me anything about oneself and anything one may learn about another person. And one must do so by oneself without being reminded, and do it with full understanding that this is an essential part of the work.
    You must understand that you cannot accept part of the rules and reject or forget another part. You must understand the importance of discipline in the work.
    You must understand the meaning of the words: sacrifice your suffering, and the right moments, right methods and the aim and possible results of such sacrifice.

 

    You must understand the necessity for being careful when saying ‘I’. You can say ‘I’ when speaking about yourself only when you are sure that you speak about work or ideas or rules and principles of the work, or in accordance with all rules and principles. In all other cases you must try to understand which part of you is speaking or thinking, and name it accordingly. This idea must not be exaggerated. You can say without harm: I am going to buy some cigarettes. But you cannot say: I dislike this man. You must find which part of you dislikes him and why, and not ascribe this dislike to all of you.

   

You must clearly understand the necessity of self-observation for self study. You must understand the difference between functions and consciousness. Thinking of functions, you must always be able to distinguish the intellectual, emotional, moving and instinctive functions; positive and negative parts of centres in the intellectual and instinctive centres; moving, emotional and intellectual parts in all centres. You must study attention and under- stand how, by the study of attention, you can distinguish parts of centres.

 

    In relation to the study of consciousness you must remember what you know about sleep and waking state, the different levels in waking state, and the connection of higher centres with higher states of consciousness. You must remember that your aim is to produce higher states of consciousness in yourself and to establish connection with higher centres. You must understand that higher centres have many unknown functions which cannot be described in ordinary language. They have much more power, and a deeper penetration into the laws of nature. You must remember that many problems insoluble for our ordinary mind can become soluble for higher centres. And you must always return to the idea of permanent ‘I’ and realize how far you are from it and how many efforts and sacrifices are necessary in order to reach it.

 

    In the work on consciousness you must understand first of all, that this work is entirely practical. Theoretical study will not help. Second, you must understand that the work on consciousness can give results only when it becomes permanent or as near to permanent as possible. Spasmodic, accidental, interrupted work cannot give results. So try to find how you can make your work on consciousness continuous. Your mind must guide you in the beginning, constantly reminding you of the necessity for remembering yourself, and helping you to catch the moments of not remembering.

 

    But realize that mind can only prepare you for this work and only guide you for a certain distance. You can go further in the work on consciousness only with the help of will and emotions.
    Remember also, that consciousness can be measured by the length of periods of consciousness and by the frequency of the appearance of these periods.
    Efforts to create consciousness in oneself feel almost hopeless in the beginning. But very soon they will begin to give results. You will notice these results by observing moments of consciousness appearing by themselves without any effort on your part. In reality, they are the results of previous efforts.
    The practice of stopping thoughts helps self-remembering very much. Struggle with imagination and with mechanical talk with oneself or with people is necessary from the very beginning. But one will get still stronger help for self-remembering from sacrificing one’s suffering. Only this can make the work on consciousness real and serious. Before this, all is only preparation for it.

 

    The work on emotions as the work on consciousness must be practical from the beginning. It begins with the struggle against the expression of negative emotions. When a certain control is acquired and when you fully understand all evil sides of negative emotions in your own life and in life in general, you must make a plan for your personal work on identification, imagination and lying in those particular forms which they take in you.
    In this work you must not be afraid to hurt yourself. Understand that only by hurting yourself can you get what you want. You can do this by observing rules. For instance, by saying something about yourself or about other people that you do not want to say, but when you are told to do so. Also, you can produce a very emotional state in yourself by preparing yourself to speak in this way, that is, by imagining yourself being told to speak the truth on the most difficult and intimate subjects which you think are quite hidden or disguised.

 

    Realize also, that there are many other kinds of suffering through which you will pass before you attain your aim. Try to understand that suffering is the only active principle in us which can be converted into higher feeling — which is also higher thought and higher understanding.
    Do not be afraid of thinking of your emotions and finding contradictions in them, even if it hurts you. Only by comparing different emotions referring to the same subject can you find buffers in yourself and eventually destroy them if you work hard enough and are not afraid of hurting yourself.Remember that this will lead you to the awakening of conscience, which is the simultaneous feeling of all contradictory emotions; and remember that the awakening of conscience is a necessary step for transferring yourself to the higher level of consciousness.
    Practice removing identification and imagination from negative emotions without destroying them. You may get quite unexpected and very interesting results.
    Learn to transform emotions into mental attitudes and to transfer them to the mind. Many emotions which are quite useless and even harmful in emotional centre, because they cannot exist there without identification and imagination, become quite useful as mental attitudes and help self-observation, observation of other people and general understanding.

 

    Try to go through all your emotions during all the time you have been connected with the system, emotions referring to the system itself, to me, to yourself and to other people in the work.
    Try to be sincere with yourself. See how you have always tried to profit by your being in the work; for instance, by using the particular intimacy that establishes itself between people in the work, owing to common psychological study and the disappearance of many buffers, for making friends in the ordinary mechanical and sentimental way, having love affairs, etc. See what use you have made of your connection with the work. See how you were often selfish and calculating, how little you gave to the work and how much you took from it. See how much considering was in your attitudes, how many demands and how much resentment, particularly when people tried to help you. Try to see how poor was your valuation of the work and how much you missed by it. Try to see how foolish you were to express negative opinions of people who could have helped you, many of whom have disappeared already. Try to see yourself as you really are. And do not let yourself rest, do not comfort yourself with false hopes and expectations of miracles, or with decisions to act differently tomorrow.

   

Think about life in general, think about masses of blind and sleeping people without any chance in the world to become anything else. Think about yourself, realize how many opportunities you had and how many you have already lost and continue to lose daily.
    Think about death. You do not know how much time remains to you. And remember that if you do not become different, everything will be repeated again, all foolish blunders, all silly mistakes, all loss of time and opportunity — everything will be repeated with the exception of the chance you had this time, because chance never comes in the same form.

 

    You will have to look for your chance next time. And in order to do this, you will have to remember many things, and how will you remember then if you do not remember anything now?
    Try to understand the work on will. You begin this work by work on mind and consciousness; work on emotions strengthens will still more, and prepares you for further efforts. But real work on will begins with trying to understand self-will and finding examples of its manifestations in your actions. At this point comes the necessity for great sincerity with yourself and the necessity for being ready to speak to me about your manifestations of self- will. Try to understand that every decision made by yourself and for yourself which can at the same time affect your work is the manifestation of self-will.
    In order to understand better the difference between will and self-will, learn to distinguish between mechanical and conscious. Self-will is always mechanical, will is always conscious. You must understand that even on an ordinary level there is a great difference between mechanical and conscious. In life the difference is connected with the difference between important and unimportant, but in life the difference between important and unimportant varies for different people and changes according to the change of circumstances. For people in schools, ‘important’ is always connected with the work.

 

    If you consider yourself connected with school work or wish to be in school work but hesitate in relation to life matters and do not know which way to choose, you can always find what is more important for you by looking at the question from this point of view.
    ‘Important’ is always, in one way or in many ways, connected with the work and cannot contradict principles and methods of the work. Mechanical decisions and mechanical actions always contradict the methods of the work, and harm your work and your position in the work. If you cannot decide yourself what is more important and which way to choose, you must ask me.

 

    If you are seriously in the work and want to be in the work, you must not make any decision which may affect your life without first asking my opinion. Your own decisions in serious cases are bound to be based on self-will.
    But you cannot ask my opinion or my decision when your decision is already made and you have already begun to act on the basis of it, because that means self-will in action; and in such a case it is too late to ask me. Questions as to my opinion and my decision when your decision is already made, are really manifestations of insincerity with yourself and attempts to deceive me by false pretences.
    Try to realize that mechanical actions and mechanical decisions are always based on considerations outside the work (even if you persuade yourself that the result will be useful for your work), considerations of pleasure, of convenience or comfort; or they result from negative emotions or imagination.

 

    Try to understand that if you are in the work and wish to be in the work, the most mechanical manifestation is lying to me or suppressing the truth from me.
    Demand for complete truth does not refer to people only beginning to work with me. They must make long preliminary work on mind and consciousness before complete truth becomes necessary and obligatory. But when they realize the necessity for personal help, and when I find that they are ready, and I can help them, the principle of complete truth becomes obligatory. And it is certainly obligatory for all people who have been in the work for five years and also for some who have been in the work much less but have already formulated their aim.

 

    Remember that your chief work must be on self-will. One begins to give up one’s self-will by accepting rules, but one must be sincere about it. Later one must give up one’s self-will in all serious matters and accept another person’s will, in this case, mine. Only by doing this, and doing it with full understanding of the necessity for doing so, one will begin to acquire slowly one’s own will. Really, the very act of giving up one’s self-will is the first act and the first manifestation of real will.
    The four lines of work on oneself can be designated: intellectual work — preparation; work on consciousness — aim; work on emotions — means, energy; work on will — control, and also energy.

 

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