Juliet always falls in love with Romeo, always marries him, and always dies with him. A play with any other outcome cannot rightly be called Romeo and Juliet. We, the audience, witness a predetermined progression and end. We enjoy the lovers’ affections, sympathize with their trials, but are never surprised by their tragic endings. Like omniscient gods, we witness all four dimensions, aware of the long body of the play in every moment of its unfolding.

How would we experience our own lives from the point of view of an all-knowing audience? Ordinarily, we are confined to the present: past and future are frequently imagined, but never objectively observed. Peter Ouspensky was determined to do just that. After reviewing what others had written about the fourth dimension (as shared in his book A New Model of the Universe), he realized that philosophical exploration was inadequate. “We must find a means for a projective representation of [the fourth dimension, time] in three-dimensional space,” he remarked.

Theater is such a projection. A group of characters with predetermined relationships act before an audience ever aware of the fourth dimension. The actors act as mortals; the audience witness as gods. We take the characters seriously even though we know they aren’t real. A well-performed Juliet brings us to sigh, weep, and laugh, despite our knowing her fate and that the actress we see isn’t really Juliet. When the play ends, we lament Juliet’s death but applaud the actress that played her. We take both perspectives seriously, and are happy to have tasted a four-dimensional experience on a three-dimensional stage.

“We must find the fourth dimension in a purely experimental way,” concluded Ouspensky. In this spirit, let us conduct an experiment: take the remaining part of today as a scripted play — from the moment you finish reading this post. Your rising from your chair is scripted. So is your bumping against the foot of the table on your way to the kitchen. Your brewing a cup of coffee is also scripted, as is spilling some of it on your shirt, answering a call from your colleague, getting upset by her complaints, writing an email to your boss, etc. For two hours (the approximate duration of Romeo and Juliet), live as if the minutest detail of your day is predetermined, and as if you are its omniscient audience. Remember: the audience doesn’t change the play, nor should an observer change what it observes.

In which ways would you be different if you were able to maintain such an impartial observer?


  1. jack

    You would have conscious awareness of the external events that influence us moment by moment. The observer witnesses and doesn’t judge. But, it examines what it feels like in this higher state. The more of these experiences the more we see and recognize the higher emotional and intellectual centers.

  2. Lenny Schwartz

    “Remember: the audience doesn’t change the play, nor should an observer change what it observes. In which ways would you be different if you were able to maintain such an impartial observer?”
    this is the whole crux! every moment we react (nothing conscious here) to every impression… our attention is hi-jacked… our imagination goes off every moment (usually to negative imaginings)… there’s both affirming and denying… as we move to higher centres there is only affirming… acceptance… the clear-quiet-stillness of the Observer… if we “were able to maintain such an impartial observer” we would first have to sever the connection of the mechanical outward flow of attention-energy… we would have to be able to not react (not by will but by being)… to hold onto our attention-energy… this state i suggest is self-remembering (higher centre function)… real self-observation… in this place of silence our intuition has it’s home: we become a fourth dimensional observer in a three dimensional world… we see the play in it’s entirety and can choose to DO… to choose various outcomes (which we may not now have any reason to do)

    1. Orazio Sorgonà

      In our earthly stage productions,
      the producer, the director and the actors also seem to have a major role, to perform a major function than the audienze.
      Thus, if ‘the audience’ is the impartial Observer, what of those greaters?
      Superior degrees of ‘the Observer’ or prior Entities.
      According to this angle, cosmic laws themselves and subjective features are just’raw’ material; it is, the second state entirely, with all its cosmical scale and laws,and centers of gravity, body tipe, different i’s and features, is the raw material for a performance.
      “And like the baseless fabric of this vision,
      The cloud-capped towers, the gorgeous palaces,
      The solemn temples, the great globe itself—
      Yea, all which it inherit—shall dissolve,
      And like this insubstantial pageant faded,
      Leave not a rack behind.”
      The only thing ever, and anyway, that really occurs in the whole creation is inner evolution.

  3. Thomas Neuschatz

    As happens to me often, any beautiful experiment directed to toward consciousness, Presence, shows me more clearly what pulls me back. In trying to be impartial, I find I cannot for very long. Judgement of my mechanics grabs me. Staying separate from the interesting thoughts about “important” subjects is another lure. It takes more than a little courage to drop these familiars and go with Self-awareness.

  4. Thomas Neuschatz

    What would an existence be like if my usual thoughts and emotions and reactions and judgments were seen as outside my Self? If everything was seen as a play written for the Self to experience? I would be connected more directly with the world around me; new feelings, thoughts, perceptions would flow. Beauty and harmony would be my companions, suffering,too, but in a way that makes me more free. Most important the Self would be there watching, appreciating, learning.

  5. Orazio Sorgonà

    I begun the experiment after I read, some time ago.
    I had also written a comment, but I submitted it not because I was not sure of something I would have liked to say. Well, isn’t this also the play?
    Just now I wish tosay that you made me think of Prospero, in Shakespeare’s ‘the Tempest’.
    Very amazingly, he seems to be /both/ a character and a completely separate observer. He, exactly like someone in the audience, knows exactly what is going to occur. Yet, it takes him very hard labour, and in race with time, to make it occur.
    Shakespeare showed us how the play is written, but it’s not an iron-rigid one-dimensional mechanical predetermination. Consciousness and effort will work the story out good.

    1. Thomas Neuschatz

      Hello Orazio, one possibility to consider is that consciousness and effort are also written, just as unconsciousness is. Freedom from features and imagination is still freedom even if written into our play. Just watching the play unfold can approach ecstasy.

  6. Hannah K

    I found doing this experiment a bit spooky. I became split inside in a way that I haven’t experienced when just self observing. The level of detachment was greater while ‘I’ the audience was watching ‘I’ the actor. It reminded me of Dostoyevsky’s ” The Double”; the world even took on the same weird atmosphere as that book had.
    It also created some ‘I’s in my machine about Free Will. I did actually spill some soup while I was pouring it. My actor self put that down to my clumsiness, my tendency to rush and chastised itself: my audience self told me it was all written into the play. That created a feeling of impotence, like I was being manipulated, had no free will, no chance to improve my clumsiness. All very spooky!

    1. Asaf Braverman Post author

      This is a powerful observation, Hannah. Once while traveling in Israel, my wife and I stopped for lunch at a roadside restaurant that had a vegetable garden and a chicken coop. A small chick had escaped the fencing while all the other chickens remained caged within. The liberated chick spent its time looking for the crack by which it had escaped. It’s freedom caused it much agitation and it sought to quickly return to captivity. I took this to be a comic reflection of our own condition.

      In the spirit of the above mentioned exercise, this ‘fear from liberation’ that you observed must also be taken as part of the play. I admit that this is much easier said than done, but it is nevertheless worthwhile attempting. After all, this ‘fear’ might be the final glue between our consciousness and our functions, which, if dissolved, would result in a purely higher state; consciousness without functions.

      This delicate threshold is portrayed in Prince Siddhartha’s Great Departure. He is shown leaving his father’s imaginary kingdom in search of enlightenment. His horse’s muzzle pierces into this new dimension. At this delicate transition, Mara, the king of darkness, visits him for the first time and tries to convince him to turn back. We must each observe our own Mara, learn what glues us to sleep, and how to recruit the courage to dissolve that glue.

      Prince Siddhartha's Great Departure (Ana Rodriguez)

      1. Hannah K

        Thank you Asaf. What you say certainly makes sense of what I experienced while doing this exercise. My machine certainly found it uncomfortable, in fact it got quite stroppy about it. I have been experimenting more with this and have observed that my machine feels alternately caught out (like a child who becomes aware that her mother is watching her talking to her dolls) and left out (“so there’s the audience watching this woman cooking the dinner but but what about all us ‘I’s inside her?”). I think what freaks it out is the level of objectivity. This certainly feels like a quality of another world or level.

        1. Hannah K

          Actually, a better word than ‘objectivity’ is ‘impersonal’. I could see that the machine thinks it’s so special! Maybe that’s why the chick wanted to return to the cage; amongst the other captives it felt special, maybe because it knew where the escape route was but outside the cage it’s just one tiny speck in a vast universe.
          Understanding this reminds me of what Gurdjieff said about having to make sacrifices in order to attain consciousness and the things that we have to sacrifice we don’t actually have. We think we are unique and special whereas we’re just minute threads in the fabric of the universe. And machine’s don’t like knowing that!

          1. Asaf Braverman Post author

            There has to occur a transfer of identity here, from calling the part that freaks out ‘I’ to calling the impersonal state ‘I.’

            The annihilating feeling of being a speck in a vast universe you describe will happen irreversibly at the point of death. From one angle, this work is preparation for that shock. In our lives, we experience many small deaths: loss of a job, loss of cherished possessions, loss of an acquaintance, loss of a loved one. In working on observing ourselves right now (as this week’s exercise implies), we increase our ability to observe and minimize identification when these small deaths occur. And in minimizing identification when these small deaths occur, we prepare ourselves for the ultimate shock of our own death.

            So one motivation for facing the fear you describe is the notion that you will inevitably be forced to face it at the end of your life. This is a slightly different take on Gurdjieff’s powerful comment that we end up sacrificing only imaginary things. The identity of our machine is borrowed and temporary. Each effort to remember ourselves, to observe ourselves impartially, is preparation for releasing the imaginary identity of our machines at the point of death.

          2. Charles Rodkoff

            For myself, the experience you described Hannah was like being in a small sail boat on the open ocean without a rudder, in very deep swells and troughs of bottomless cold dark water. Unnerving would be an understatement. The I that appeared was ‘Is this state self-remembering?’
            We’re moving the location of our identity from, as Walt Whitman describes, ‘…the gross torpid bulk’ (the four lower centers) to an observer.

  7. philippe bitton

    We once expressed the idea of mirror reflection (or relation)(Macro-cosmos/Micro-cosmos). So one is the world (the stage), and all the actors are the “I’s”….the scenery is the centers and all their functions (the thoughts, the emotions, the motions, the intuitions) Because of one’s peculiar form of existence, a peculiar and specific functions that form can do..in a sense its function is known due to its form…one knows the content of a play, due to its title…A drama will not be a comedy…
    So if one had any real understanding about “The Machine”, that one is…knowing that like a written computer program one lives one’s life…like a puppet
    From this perspective if one is indeed attaining such liberation, one is done struggling, since futile it will be. And now, one could enjoy the ride…an awareness riding in a physical form…But this is just some theory…for so far in a struggle not only with the world about as to survive, make a living, one struggles with oneself, internal battle of what one perceives and senses, one’s view of who one think one is…
    Peace and Love

  8. Tim

    I completely blew up this exercise by over complicating it. I got up from my desk to begin the play and said to myself ok one of four things can now happen: fate, law of accident, cause and effect, or will. Will is out of the question because we don’t have it yet. I thought about a play-date my daughter was having with a cousin – their being cousins was related to fate. Then about five minutes in to the whole affair I got lost in an outdoor project while thinking I’d focus on cause and effect. I was wondering about the difference between will and cause and effect when I fell asleep (figuratively). I simply didn’t have the processing power to move forward like this, I had things to do and watching with divided attention was too much effort. I was also tired and find I make better efforts when well rested. This is a grand irony – that I need sleep to awaken. Perhaps there is a formula that explains how much less sleep one eventually needs as one becomes more and more skilled at higher mind. Theoretically, if it is to withstand physical death, consciousness ought to be attainable with less and less physical sleep. Or attainable with more and more right energy.

    1. Asaf Braverman Post author

      Your experience shows that the intellectual center alone cannot do this exercise. This, in itself, is a valuable verification. There has to be an emotional element in self-observation, because keeping our fingers on the pulse of the moment requires speed and adaptation that our intellectual center doesn’t have.

      It might help to look at it differently: think of watching a sports game. The commentator is the intellectual center. The game happens all the same with or without the commentator. But the commentator makes a big difference for the audience. I have found it possible to view a sports game without identification if I lower the volume (and silence the commentator), but I have found it impossible not to get identified with a game while the commentator is all the time telling me when to get excited.

      Can you lower the volume of your intellectual center and give this exercise another try?

      1. Tim

        Asaf- thank you for this wonderful angle. Yes, I will try it again!

        Pertaining to your observation about the requirement for an emotional element I recently read something by Rodney Collins that I am growing fond of. He said one way to look at emotions is as if they were multiple simultaneous thoughts (with high value) compressed into an extremely short time, so short we are unable to handle it with intellectual center alone. Take for example turning your car on to a wrong road only to be instantly enveloped with a new and unexpected and dangerous situation that requires instant instant decision making. Whether it be instinctive fear or something else i bet if one examines the moment on the disecting board of memory we would find information in that emotional response, compressed like a video file on a computer, that could be untangled and even harnessed.

        1. Tim

          In the past I mentioned a self observation of the formatory apparatus’ contribution to conversations with colleagues at lunch. I made it my general aim to watch this with the goal of keeping my mouth shut unless I had something of higher quality to contribute. Well yesterday, without warning, I watched myself fall in and revert back to my old habit of using associations and formatory thinking to contribute to the conversation. It was quite frustrating because I knew it went against my aim but I did it anyway. I watched it unfold before me in real time on the proverbial stage of the lunch table. I am definitely using people’s facial expressions and / or body language to somehow justify this – I project on to the situation that it needs my input RIGHT NOW. Its pretty intense to sit opposite of someone who is asleep and who is your boss and to inwardly fight the urge to participate in such a way so that one is not disrespectful. However I have also noticed that they mostly don’t notice my silence (we’re typically a group of three or four at lunch). For some reason this did not apply yesterday.

          Generally speaking using the whole world as my stage was too daunting, I needed a smaller unit to work with, like the lunch table. Intellectually I understand all the world is a stage but to fluidly roll through one environment to the next under this pretext is not so easy (yet?). I will work on this.

    2. Luís Sales

      The way that i would be different is by not having most of my ‘I’s focused on my personal instinctive interesets. Thinking about my job, money, how people think about me, etc.
      I would rather have more ‘I’s that were concerned about how limit our time and values the efforts to “BE” or even that cares and do more for other people without expecting something in return.

  9. András V

    When I start practicing this exercise and “see” myself imagining, imagination stops. Is it the observer changes what it observes? It keeps me wondering if I do the observation the wrong way. Apart from this, I have the similar weird feelings as Hannah’s and sometimes it makes me ask “What is it? Where I am?”, as if I was in a whole new world I do not know.
    When I am in this observing state I do not worry that much about the things that keep me worrying a lot in my usual identified state.

    1. Thomas Neuschatz

      Andras, the absence of imagination is an indication of a higher state beginning. The purpose of all exercises in the Work is to create conditions for and induce consciousness. It seems to have worked. And, yes, it is weird to begin to Exist without imagination; it is a whole new world we can explore. Also, since what we usually feel as ‘me’ depends on imagination, a new identity, a more real “I”, begins to appear.

  10. Jack

    When I started the exercise I observed i’s in the opening act that were trying to determine what they were going to learn from the play. There were moments of continued observation, times of identification with the i’s, times of total sleep, times of disliking the i’s and not wanting to just observe but deny them. I wanted to be just the observer, but found it hard to do with things I didn’t like. It felt like I would be giving approval to those i’s.
    If I were to be able to maintain an impartial observer, I would then be in position to identify less.I feel I would be more conscious, leak way less energy. I feel a struggle with being impartial and The Work saying not to identify with negative emotions. I want to stop them by inner stop or acknowledge that that is not me, not who I am. I need clarification here.

    1. Asaf Braverman Post author

      These observations are very useful, Jack. Let’s take this a step further: I offer you temporary permission to express negative emotions on the condition that you maintain an impartial observer throughout their expression. Note that the condition is imperative: you must be able to observe yourself expressing negativity during the action; a moment later doesn’t count. Are you able to do this?

      Please report your experience here.

  11. Gjorgi Stojanov

    This is pretty interesting. I just recently started to read my first book about Gurdijeff from Ouspensky and i can resonate to it very deeply. When i read this post it reminded me about the mechanical-ness Gurdijeff talked about. Just by observing this as i write here it gives me a feeling of will, everything gets narrowed down to the typing. Same but different observation when driving my car, eating, drinking, now as i write my breathing. A mixed strange feeling arises in this as feeling as a stranger – as an other entity. It really gives an experience of the inevitable happening. Something i will and am already using as a daily practice since i read it in the book – now interestingly again. It is really an important thing to realize it more and more.

    1. jack

      Within your capabilities of roles can you see similarities between yourself and others? Props, eye movement hands movements body language that makes it possible to see the inroad in which you can assume that role without identification. I noticed this happening last night when observing a musician. Of course, it is done within my range.

  12. Marcella Berardi

    I had a singular experience doing this exercise. I was the actor in the scene and the observer was sitting in the theatre looking at the play I was offering. I felt him in a masculine shape, perhaps it was because the observer played his role as the intellectual part. I knew he was watching me and I was giving him a show, at the moment it was an half hour of a scheduled running on the “tapis roulant”. My body was involved, it was the main character, it took the breathe under control. Slowly some beads of sweat were spilled from my skin – not tears this time, but the same they added an emotional element to the acting – I was aware to be observed, I was performing my role, and suddenly I become conscious of a third presence, the one who was moving at the same time the observer and the actress, probably the writer of the play. He conducted us until the end of the experiment and I felt that He was I.

    1. Lazaros Lazarakis

      Perhaps an activation of the law of three:external object (yourself acting) is the first force,internal reaction or non action (the impartial observer) is the second force and the awareness of both of them (self remembering) is the third force dear Marcella.

    2. Thomas Neuschatz

      Marcela, I enjoyed your image of the moving walkway. We must always be acting but another force is pushing us through the play of our lives. Your experience of shifting location of identity, if I may take that meaning from your comments, points toward a higher state of Being/Consciousness. We make efforts, try experiments; the results are not for us to choose.

    3. Ilia Maisuradze

      I read it several times and I wish I could experience the same pure moment of being.
      In spite of I have not experienced such moment, the exercise is very interesting and helpful. My fragmented consciousness does not allow me to keep the aim for a long time. The main reason is that I am not capable not to ask questions and stay impartial, so I am easily identifying.
      In rare moments of successes I feel my ego smaller, I don’t have negative emotions and if I am a little bit aware of formatory aparatus in this state one is not using it.
      The idea of scripted play is very interesting. Several times in my life I had the feeling from my experiences that interference does not changing the whole picture and sometimes it is better not to interfere at all.
      One of such experiences I had during this exercise and thereby of it was able to look at bigger picture.
      Thank you for this opportunity.

  13. John

    As an actor, I realize the message that this post has in it. This, however, is the first time I made my own life a script played out. It is an interesting exercise, one that I was happy to finish after the two hours. It both restricted and enhanced my activities. Restriced in the sense that I had a tendency to stay on task–too long; but enhanced in that while on that task I was more thorough.

    1. John F. Walz

      Hello John,
      thanks for sharing those observations. I have not done any acting, but I know Asaf has and he would like to make acting part of the Beperiod experience. My understanding is that acting in Greece and other ancient cultures was done, in part, with the aim for self awareness, and that the techniques learned on stage were to be carried over into your day to day life.

  14. Hicham B.

    I must admit it took too much time to do this exercise. The reason is simple: procrastination. The fact is that I wanted to do the exercise in a good mood.
    When I finally had enough energy to start the experiment, of course I was not in a good mood as there were no buses and I needed to get to a certain place before a certain time.
    Around 45 minutes of waiting with groups of different I”s racing in my head. Most of I’s are dramatic.
    When finally the bus arrived, I remembered to sit with my feet flat on the ground (an exercise I work on recently)but for a while I completely forgot the exercise.
    The two hours went from phases of remembering the exercise and forgetting it. The other challenge was to shift between the position of actor to that of the audience.
    Shifting between them caused a strange feeling to the whole machine: Who am I? The impression of neither the actor nor the audience is me. What is the concept of “me” at all? It experienced a complete loss of identity or at least the “impression of” losing the identity.
    It was an interesting state, I can’t be angry, I can’t be happy because simply “I” does not exist!

  15. Dean Whittingham

    I ovserved that the moment I began to see my world as a play and my machine as an actor I was immediately set upon by judgment Is which screamed out that this is the most boring play I have ever seen, as if I was expecting a story line, action or intrigue of some sort. It required a lot of effort just to create some form of emotion or reason for wanting to continue watching it; although I have not been able to sustain anything for more than a few moments, let alone two hours, an emotional element seems to come by itself when I can recall something as simple as turning a light switch off a few days ago because at that time I did make the effort to be.

    1. Asaf Braverman Post author

      Dean, you raise a very interesting point. Most of our day is made up of seemingly insignificant scenes. In the acting world there is a saying by Stanislavski that goes, “there are no small parts, only small actors.” Someone has to play Macbeth, and someone has to play the messenger that tells Macbeth the enemy is approaching. How to play the messenger’s part greatly? How to bring the care to those seemingly insignificant moments that comprise our lives?

      This calls for another post and discussion, which I will work on in the coming weeks. No doubt, we must bring valuation to all moments regardless of their ‘glamour,’ or we cannot hope to remember ourselves always and everywhere.

  16. philippe bitton

    “Remember: the audience doesn’t change the play, nor should an observer change what it observes.”
    It might seem that it is so, though, experiments have demonstrated that the actor being aware of being observed reacts to that observation…so the observer (simply by being present and known) does affect the play…
    As the “I” observes, even if impartial, that awareness affect the whole of the machine…meaning also the “I’s” at play (at least so I seem to observe)
    As we learn to group some “I’s” that would be beneficial to our aim (changing the play)
    Or there is something I totally misunderstand…
    The concept that all events in life were written before end (in its details – bumping the side of the bed) seems fatalist and invalid.
    But again, maybe something here I am misunderstanding…
    And I am not disagreeing with the concept that the observer can and needs to be unaffected himself…..

  17. Thomas Neuschatz

    Phillipe, you have certainly pinpointed some paradoxes that existence in the analogy of a play. All analogies cannot go all the way, but can only offer points of view that help along the way. My experience is that the observer becomes stronger and more independent of outer events with more frequent efforts toward consciousness. So the observer is changed by observing. Furthermore, the stage and actors in the inner play change behavior as consciousness fluctuates. The idea of a play helps reduce the imagination of control and doing and helps focused on the more important inner man.

  18. Mariam

    I actually found this website after the realization of the world as a play hit me spontaneously a couple of weeks ago. Actually the sensation of this has happened twice, once when I was a child and looked at my arm and realized, “wow, here is a body and it’s not me, but it is!” After this, I realized I was on a trip “here.” Of course, growing up, I forgot this, though at moments remembered again. Most recently, the realization that the world wasn’t real came in the morning without any warning. It stuck with me strongly throughout the day and I saw myself as separate from driving to work, sitting at my desk, interacting with others. It was simultaneously exhilarating and disturbing. At moments I feared I was mentally ill. I had Ouspensky on my bookshelf then did some searching and found this pretty fantastic site that has allowed the extension and calibration of the spontaneous insight. Thank you much for this Asaf.