To be present requires dividing my attention. Three-quarters must be kept inside and only one quarter allowed to support the movement toward manifestation. This is a law that cannot be avoided. I order to be, we have to “play a role.”
My need is to reconcile the aspiration toward the higher with the attraction to affirm myself in the functions. I want o unite both forces in order to be conscious of myself as a whole and to remain conscious of myself, actively present to my situation. If I do not remain present, I will be passive., taken by one force or the other force. Here I need to see my limitation, to see that my centers are not related. My attention has to stay in front of this fact and not go away until the feeling of “I” appears. It is in trying to stay here longer that this feeling appears at the very heart of the struggle. I alone can resolve the issue…if I wish, if I will. But in order to will, it is necessary to continue staying in front with an active attention. This produces a force that acts on my passivity, and a change takes place in the relation between my centers.
When I see my energy is entirely drawn outward, I feel a need to come to a different state. This requires an absolute quietness in which I can feel the disconnection between the center and experience the need to have them in accord. I live this lack of connection, this fact, and see that the energies of the mind and the body are not related. As I stay in front, the two come to the same intensity. But I see that this is not enough. A new feeling must appear, the feeling of being. This is a new energy, a conscious force that needs to be present if I am not to be re-taken by my automatism.
Book Excerpt from - A New Model of the Universe - by P.D. Ouspensky
The idea of esotericism also reaches people in the form of pseudo-esotericism, pseudo-occultism. The cause of this lies again in the above-mentioned difference in the levels of men themselves. Most people can accept truth only in the form of a lie. But while some of them are satisfied with a lie, others begin to seek further and may in the end come to truth. Church Christianity has completely distorted the ideas of Christ, but, starting from the Church form, some people who are ” pure in heart ” may by the way of feeling come to a right understanding of the original truth. It is difficult for us to realise that we are surrounded by distortions and perversions and that apart from these distortions and perversions we can receive nothing from outside.
We have difficulty in understanding this, because the fundamental tendency of contemporary thought consists precisely in examining phenomena in the order opposite to that just mentioned. We are accustomed to conceive every idea, every phenomenon, whether in the domain of religion, art or public life, as appearing first in a rude primitive form, in the form of a mere adaptation to organic conditions and of rude savage instincts, of fear, of desire, or memory of something still more elementary, still more primitive, animal, vegetable, embryonic, and gradually evolving and becoming more refined and more complicated, affecting more and more sides of life, and thus approaching the ideal form.
Of course such a tendency of thought is directly opposed to the idea of esotericism, which holds that the very great majority of our ideas are not the product of evolution but the product of the degeneration of ideas which existed at some time or are still existing somewhere in much higher, purer and more complete forms. This to the modern way of thinking is a mere absurdity. We are so certain that we are the highest product of evolution, that we know everything, so sure that there cannot be on this earth any significant phenomena such as schools or groups or systems which have not hitherto been known or acknowledged or discovered, that we have difficulty even in admitting the logical possibility of such an idea.
If we want to master even the elements of the idea, we must understand that they are incompatible with the idea of evolution in the ordinary sense of this word. It is impossible to regard our civilisation, our culture, as unique or the highest; it must be regarded as one of the many cultures which have succeeded one another on the earth. Moreover these cultures, each in its own way, distorted the idea of esotericism which lay at their foundation, and not one of them ever rose, even approximately, to the level of its source.
But such a view would be far too revolutionary, for it would shake the foundations of all modern thought, would involve a revision of all scientific philosophies of the world, and would make perfectly useless, even ridiculous, whole libraries of books written on the basis of the theory of evolution. And above all it would necessitate the withdrawal from the scene of a whole series of ” great men “of the past, present and future. This view, therefore, can never become popular and is not likely to take its place side by side with other views.
But if we try to continue with this idea of successive civilisations, we shall see that every great culture of the great cycle of the whole of humanity consists of a whole series of separate cultures, belonging to separate races and peoples. All these separate cultures proceed in waves; they rise, reach the point of their highest development and fall. A race or a people which has reached a very high level of culture may begin to lose its culture and gradually pass to a state of absolute barbarism. The savages of our time, as has been said before, may be the descendants of once highly cultured races. A whole series of these racial and national cultures, taken over a very long period of time, makes up what may be called a great culture or the culture of a great cycle. The culture of a great cycle is also a wave which is made up, like every wave, of a number of smaller waves; and this culture, like the separate cultures, racial or national, rises, reaches its highest point and finally sinks into barbarism.
Of course the division of periods of barbarism and periods of culture must not be understood literally. Culture may entirely disappear in one continent and be partly preserved in another which holds no communication with the first. We may think in precisely this way of our own culture, as times of indubitable, profound barbarism in Europe may have been times of a certain culture in parts of Central or South America, perhaps in some countries of Africa, Asia and Polynesia. The possibility of a culture being preserved in some parts of the world in a period of general decadence does not affect the main principle that culture proceeds in great waves, separated by long periods of more or less complete barbarism.
And it is very possible that periods occur, particularly if they coincide with geological cataclysms, with changes in the state of the earth’s crust, when every semblance of culture disappears and the remnants of all the earlier humanity start a new culture from the beginning, from the stone-age. According to the idea of esotericism, not all the valuable things gained by humanity during periods of culture are lost in periods of barbarism. The main substance of what has been gained by humanity in a period of culture is preserved in esoteric centres during a period of barbarism, and afterwards serves for the beginning of a new culture. Every culture rises and falls. The reason is that in every culture, as we can observe, for example in our own, completely opposed principles, the principle of barbarism and the principle of civilisation, are developed and evolved at the same time.
The beginning of culture comes from the inner circle of humanity, and often it comes by means that are violent. Missionaries of the inner circle civilise savage races sometimes by fire and sword, because there can be no other means but violence to deal with a savage people. Later, the principles of civilisation develop and gradually create those forms of man’s spiritual manifestation which are called religion, philosophy, science and art, and also those forms of social life which create for the individual a certain freedom, leisure, security and the possibility of self-manifestation in higher spheres of activity.
This is civilisation. As has been pointed out, its beginning, that is the beginning of all its ideas and principles and of all its knowledge, comes from the esoteric circle. But, simultaneously with the beginning of civilisation, violence was admitted, and the result is that side by side with civilisation barbarism grows too. This means that parallel with the growth of the ideas which come from the esoteric circle there evolve other sides of life which originated in humanity in the barbarous state. Barbarism bears within itself the principles of violence and destruction. These principles do not and cannot exist in civilisation.
In our culture it is very easy to trace these two lines, the line of civilisation and the line of barbarism.
The savage killed his enemy with a club. Cultured man has at his disposal every sort of technical appliance, explosives of terrible power, electricity, aeroplanes, submarines, poisonous gases, and so on. All these means and contrivances for destruction and extermination are nothing but evolved forms of the club. And they differ from it only in the power of their action. The culture of the means of destruction and the culture of the means and methods of violence are the culture of barbarism. Further, an essential part of our culture consists in slavery and in all possible forms of violence in the name of the state, in the name of religion, in the name of ideas, in the name of morals, in the name of everything imaginable.
The inner life of modern society, its tastes and interests, are also full of barbarous traits. Passion for shows and amusements, passion for competitions, sport, gambling, great suggestibility, a propensity to submit to all kinds of influences, to panic, to fear, to suspicions. All these are features of barbarism. And they all flourish in our life, making use of all the means and contrivances of technical culture, such as printing, telegraph, wireless telegraphy, quick means of communication, and so on.
Culture strives to establish a boundary between itself and barbarism. The manifestations of barbarism are called ” crimes”. But existing criminology is insufficient to isolate barbarism. It is insufficient because the idea of ” crime ” in existing criminology is artificial, for what is called crime is really an infringement of ” existing laws “, whereas ” laws ” are very often a manifestation of barbarism and violence. Such are the prohibiting laws of different kinds which abound in modern life.
The number of these laws is constantly growing in all countries and, owing to this, what is called crime is very often not a crime at all, for it contains no clement of violence or harm. On the other hand, unquestionable crimes escape the field of vision of criminology, either because they have not the recognised form of crime or because they surpass a certain scale. In existing criminology there are concepts: a criminal man, a criminal profession, a criminal society, a criminal sect, a criminal caste, and a criminal tribe, but there is no concept of a criminal state, or a criminal government, or criminal legislation. Consequently the biggest crimes actually escape being called crimes.
This limitation of the field of vision of criminology together with the absence of exact and permanent definition of the concept of crime is one of the chief characteristics of our culture. The culture of barbarism grows simultaneously with the culture of civilisation. But the important point is the fact that the two cannot develop on parallel lines indefinitely. The moment must inevitably arrive when the culture of barbarism arrests the development of civilisation and gradually, or possibly very swiftly, completely destroys it.
It may be asked why barbarism must inevitably destroy civilisation, why civilisation cannot destroy barbarism. It is easy to answer this question. First of all such a thing has never been known to happen in all the history we know, whereas the opposite phenomenon, that is, the destruction of civilisation by barbarism, the victory of barbarism over civilisation, has occurred continually and is occurring now. And, as has been mentioned before, we may judge of the fate of a great wave of culture by the fate of the smaller waves of culture of individual races and peoples.
The root-cause of the evolution of barbarism lies in man himself; in him are innate the principles which promote the growth of barbarism. In order to destroy barbarism it is necessary to destroy these principles. But we can see that never since the beginning of history as we .know it has civilisation been able to destroy these principles of barbarism’ in man’s soul; and therefore barbarism always evolves parallel with civilisation. Moreover barbarism usually evolves more quickly than civilisation, and in many cases barbarism stops the development of civilisation at the very beginning. It is possible to find many historical examples of the civilisation of a nation being arrested by the development of barbarism in that very nation.
It is quite possible that in separate cases of small or even fairly large but isolated cultures, civilisation temporarily conquered barbarism. But in other cultures existing at the same time it was barbarism that overcame civilisation, and in time it invaded and overcame the civilisation of those separate cultures which in their own countries had overcome barbarism. The second reason for the victory of barbarism over civilisation, which can always be seen, lies in the fact that the original forms of civilisation cultivated certain forms of barbarism for the protection of their own existence, their own defence, their own isolation, such as the organisation of military force, an army, the encouragement of military technique and military psychology, the encouragement and legalisation of various forms of slavery, the codification of barbarous customs and so on.
These forms of barbarism very soon outgrow civilisation. Very soon they begin to see the aim of their existence in themselves. Their strength lies in the fact that they can exist by themselves, without help from outside. Civilisation, on the contrary, having come from outside can only exist and develop by receiving outside help, that is, the help of the esoteric circle. But the evolving forms of barbarism very soon cut off civilisation from its source, and then civilisation, losing confidence in the reason for its separate existence, begins to serve the developed forms of barbarism, in the belief that here lie its aim and destiny. All forms created by civilisation undergo a process of change and adapt themselves to the new order of things, that is to say, become subservient to barbarism.
Theocratic government is transformed into despotism. Castes, if they have been recognised, become hereditary. Religion, taking the form of ” church “, becomes an instrument in the hands of despotism or hereditary castes. Science, transformed into technique, sub-serves the aims of destruction and extermination. Art degenerates and becomes a means for keeping the masses on the level of imbecility. This is civilisation in the service of barbarism, in the captivity of barbarism. Such a relation between civilisation and barbarism can be observed throughout the whole of historical life. But such a relation cannot exist indefinitely. The growth of civilisation becomes arrested. Civilisation is, as it were, recast in the culture of barbarism. Finally it must stop altogether. Thereupon barbarism, without receiving an inflow of strength from civilisation, begins to descend to more and more elementary forms, returning gradually to its primitive state, until it becomes what it really is and has been during the whole period in which it was disguised in gorgeous trappings borrowed from civilisation.
Barbarism and civilisation can co-exist in this mutual relationship, which we observe in our historical life, for only a comparatively short period of time. There must come a period when the growth of the technique of destruction will begin to proceed so swiftly that it will destroy the source of its origin, namely, civilisation. When we examine modern life, we see how small and unimportant a place is occupied in it by the principles of civilisation which are not in servitude to barbarism How small a place, indeed, in the life of the average man is occupied by thought or the quest of truth! But the principles of civilisation in falsified forms are already used for the aims of barbarism as a means for subjugating the masses and holding them in subjection, and in these forms they flourish.
And it is only these falsified forms which are tolerated in life. Religion, philosophy, science and art, which are not in immediate servitude to barbarism, are not acknowledged in life except in feeble limited forms Any attempt on their part to grow beyond the very small limits assigned to them is immediately arrested. The interest of everyday humanity in this direction is exceedingly weak and helpless.
Great Amwell House – June 12, 1948
I will pass now from the idea of Good Householder to the further definition used in the Work concerning Good Householder who no longer believes in life. This refers to a man, a woman, who have been through all that they have, as it were, taken on their shoulders – for remember, in Organic Life every living thing has to make effort – and have begun to think something like this: ”Is there anything beyond this life? Is there anything I can find beyond what, as Good Householder, I feel it my duty to follow?”
We spoke just now of scientists transforming the atom and so on. But what can that lead to? I can well imagine a scientist saying : ”I am sick of making atom bombs:, or a financier saying : “I am sick of money”, or a politician saying “I am sick of politics”, or a soldier saying: ”I am sick of being a soldier”. Yes, one can begin to come to the end of life-meanings. Then what? What else is there? Now this Work is not about transforming outer life, or about transforming the atom, or one’s financial or political or social position. It is about transforming oneself. It is about completing this incomplete thing called oneself – this thing born as a self-developing organism. Understand that this is only fully possible when one has played with the second set of toys seriously and properly. You will get nowhere in the Work, which is not about playing with toys, unless you have gained the level spoken of – that of a reasonably good life-man or Good Householder. Why? Because your centers will not have laid down in them enough rolls , enough experience, and you will not know how to make ordinary effort. You will have no life-wisdom. In short, you will still be perhaps playing with the first set of toys – dolls, lead soldiers, and so on – without knowing it. You will no doubt fantasy many lovely things – Queen of the May, etc. – but when it comes to doing something you will not be there or will feel ill or actually get ill. Understand life is the same for all of us. We are all under the same laws. It is equally difficult for all of us. A man, if he has plus, has also and equivalent minus. If you do not understand this you will wastes so much force in saying: “if only”. Think no one better placed than you, for everyone is placed just where they should be placed for their own development.
Now, as was said, the Work is about self-transformation and is based on the definite idea that Man, created experimentally as a self-developing organism, has a definite way or path to follow in order to reach this further state in himself, once he has dealt enough with life and reached thereby a certain level of Being – which is first necessary. Let us take, in this connection, the Work-idea that a man, a woman, must work on being identified, and try to see how, by observing and working upon the state of being identified, one can begin to transform oneself. Take a man who is totally identified with his career. Everything he does is a source of worry to him. He is eaten on every side through identifying. To identify, in a literal sense, means to make oneself the same as – that is, to make yourself identical with something. Take a man who makes himself identical with his bank account. He loses his money and commits suicide – a common thing. Why does he do this? He does it because his money and his feeling of himself are identical. So when he loses his money, he feels he no longer exists. He feels he is annihilated. He is identified with something not really him at all. Now, as regards this man identified with his career – he wants, say, to become Prime Minister. He pulls wires, he intrigues, he sees all sorts of people who otherwise he would not; he runs to and fro; he is in a continual state of anxiety, always keyed up, sleepless, and so on. This is quite alright for life – for the adult toys. But if all this leads him nowhere else in the long run, he retires and no doubt wonders what on earth it was all about. Consider how a star, a famous person, by the turn of the wheel of time becomes suddenly nobody. Remember life is a mill-race, a torrent, which we have to be in for a time, but which we have gradually to swim out of. Yes, we have to be in this mill-race to be men and women. The point is to get out of it later on. If you never plunged in you are no good. You thought no doubt to save your soul. But one must lose one’s soul to find it again. Now these pictures of people totally identified are not to be sneered at for a moment. Each one of us pours force into the state of being identified over the most trivial things. Where is the center of gravity of being identified? Every emotional part of a center can identify. But the Emotional Center itself is the center of gravity of being identified. Mr. Ouspensky said once that the object of the Work is to awaken the Emotional Center. He said, in so many words, that we have no real emotions, we only know the emotion of being identified. This, he said, prevents the Emotional Center from doing its proper work. He said, the Emotional Center, if it were purified from negative emotions and identifying, would give us, for example, clairvoyance – the power of a cognitive knowledge quite different from the knowledge of the Intellectual Center – such as a sense of danger, a sense of the future, and many things which belong to us by creation but which we have lost, having been brought up amongst sleeping people and being infected by negative emotions and states of identifying. Now if we work against identifying – if we observe it in ourselves – for, remember, you can change nothing in yourself if you have not yet observed it, become conscious of it – then by the mere fact of being aware of it, which is equivalent to confession of it – you will begin very gradually to dislike the emotional state of being identified. So here, briefly, is an example of how this Work can begin to transform you.
I will add one thing. All connection is through meaning. Unless a thing means something to you, you cannot connect with it. If you cannot see any meaning in this Work for yourself, you will not be able to connect with it. This Work teaches that Greater Mind exists and that unless a person can realize this, he will not be able to work on himself. Unless you realize the miracle of nature and the miracle of your own created existence, you cannot work; you will never, for instance, be able to separate yourself from the state of being continually identified with yourself, because you imagine you are the biggest person and that there can be nothing bigger than you. And here, I would like to draw your attention to the Ray of Creation and ask you to reflect upon where you come in on it. One must begin to realize that one is not exactly what one imagines.