“If you ask a man whether he is conscious,” said Peter Ouspensky, “he will answer that he is conscious and that it is absurd to say that he is not, because he hears and understands you. And he will be quite right, although at the same time quite wrong. This is nature’s trick. He will be right because your question has made him vaguely conscious for a moment. Next moment, consciousness will disappear.”

A pertinent question makes us vaguely conscious for a moment — especially asked by us to ourselves. “Did I just do that?” or, “Did I really say that?” or, “Did I truly mean that?” It sheds a feeble light on our unconscious action of a moment ago, and despite the brief lag, exposes it to us. Thus aware of our sleep, we are already partly awake.

“Where art thou?” asks God; the first question to be asked in the Bible.

Adam, made self-conscious through this question, responds, “I heard your voice in the garden and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid myself.”

“Who told you that you were naked?” God contends; “Have you eaten of the tree, whereof I commanded you not to eat?”

Next moment, Adam is expelled from Eden. But whilst still in the garden — whilst still vaguely conscious — he has a choice: does he step forward from behind the bush to confess his unconsciousness, or does he justify himself by blaming Eve? Recovery, not immaculateness, marks a man’s strength. The sooner he sees his fault, the more quickly can he correct himself. And if he catches his fault right away, despite having fallen, he needn’t lose the Garden; he can use his fault to see; he can fling himself back to Be. This is nature’s trick.


    1. john robert reilly passmore

      I think my tendency to critical self observation has at times resulted in a doubling of the manifold of “my” personality.

      This has led to a prolonged period of self imposed isolation. When I step out from the foliage, it is to a shameful awareness that I have not changed, or if I have, it is for the worse. I know this because I keep catching my I’s trying to “help”, “save” or “change” others.

      It is dreadful to think that a river of foolish sincerity has just gushed out from all my I’s upon innocent other people. Paradoxically, I can be joyful for this dread, because it provides useful force for compassionate actions and perhaps a personality of mercifulness.

      After all, my I’s need mercy too. Am I wrong to suggest “identification” could be thought of as “inward considering of an inward I (Inward Inward Considering)? =0)

      1. Asaf Braverman Post author

        What I am understanding from your description is that your reaction to seeing your sleep throws you out of the Garden as much as your sleep itself. If this is correct, then it is a powerful observation.

        We enter this work with imagination about what it would mean to be awake. We paint a picture of what an advanced being would behave like, influenced by books we’ve read, movies we’ve seen, and perhaps accounts we’ve heard. Then, we measure our efforts based on this imaginary picture. This, of course, can only lead so far before it proves to be a blind alley.

        But along with this discovery can come the realization of the power of self-observation. To be awake is not to behave saintly, but to see one’s devil. Then, if one’s devil hurts others, one sees what has happened, avoids justification, and apologizes. That then proves to be more saintly then to never err.

        Thanks, John, for opening a sincere window into your work.

    2. Jill M.

      What I have been noticing in myself is that I ‘allow’ various low-grade, negative states (impatience, resentments) that are time-limited. For example, I can act like I am interested in someone’s story, while interiorly anticipating that I will get off the phone soon. I am a passive type, so it is relatively easy for me not to explode but to smolder. I guess the justification might be that my inner state for this short amount of time doesn’t matter, and that I can always start tomorrow with actually BEING in a moment that is difficult for the lower parts of myself. I feel confident there is a lot more going on here of which I am unaware, and so any angles on this are welcome!

      1. Asaf Braverman Post author

        Jill, I have also observed this tendency of waiting inattentively till others finish speaking, and I’ve observed that it happens, not with everyone, but particularly with certain people. In one case, this particular person and I would meet regularly for a certain period of time, and once I observed this habit, I formulated the aim to make extra effort to listen to him whenever he spoke. Each time he spoke was an alarm clock reminding me to make extra efforts to listen. It worked quite well while the interactions were regular enough.

        I thought to offer this as material for further observation, and in case you might find it practical.

    3. Alen

      I have Observed “I” photographs, “It” paints. Vanity paints the picture of Myself the way it wants to, Pride frames the painting and guards and defends it.
      Photograph is a different matter, it is what it is caught in the moment. The lens pass the light of the moment and makes an exact copy.
      One of the Natures trick is that the way down seems like the way up to us.
      Adding colors to our Painting seems much more reasonable then taking a Photograph that is most of the time boring and down.
      I can photograph when I am passive to Myself, so that the light of consciousness can pass through the lens. My hand does not intervene, it does not “create” the moment to My fitting. I Am.

    4. Hicham B.

      Two of the most important justification I use are:
      1 – Injustice in my country;
      2 – Childhood trauma;
      I usually have the tendency to justify all my mechanical actions with these I’s.
      The contradiction, especially with childhood memories, is that I clearly can see this suffering is unreal because it is long pas, nevertheless it still has a strong grip on my reactions.
      Injustice I’s also are very strong as they happen daily. It is like walking in a minefield!
      I would like to share one Ouspensky sating related to the feeling of injustice.
      The most dangerous negative emotions come from the feeling of injustice, indignation. They make you lose more energy, and they are worse if you are right. The more unselfish the indignation is, and the more right you are, the worse it is. The more energy you lose in it, the more negative results it will produce.

      1. Asaf Braverman Post author

        Thanks for sharing this, Hicham, and for the Ouspensky quotation. It shows that there are different levels of being “right.” On one level, our sense of injustice may be “right.” But letting go of this justification and seeing ourselves is always the higher “right.”

  1. Julio

    I like the statement:” Recovery, not immaculateness, marks a man’s strength”. The temptation to “pull our butt away from the syringe” is so powerful….. I have observed that often the way out of “sin” is brutal but loving sincerity (it sounds like a paradox) with myself. The other option seems to be buffering the “sin”.

    1. Asaf Braverman Post author

      Julio, this Genesis story shows different levels of buffering. At first, Adam and Eve cover their nakedness with leaves. This is a very temporary ‘hiding;’ the moment they remove their hands, the pretense falls (see images below). But after each justifies his actions by blaming another, they are given skin coats to cover their nakedness. This represents a more permanent ‘hiding’ from which it will take longer to recover.

      Adam and Eve Hiding (San Marco)

      Expulsion and Curse (San Marco)

  2. John

    We seem to have a natural tendency towards negative, hostile, and defensiveness which may be inbred from when we lived a more vulnerable life. It was vulnerable to dangerous surroundings, beasts, and people. The safety of the cave was the only time we could let down our wary guard. Seeing the danger is what enable us to survive and because the wary survived, we are wary.

    Part of The work seems to be a struggle against all of that and back to the Eden of safety where we can be at peace and live in harmony with the world.

  3. Orazio Sorgonà

    This makes me think of a crucial point in one’s evolution, at which all one’s being is at stake. After many years, decades, some time ago I understood something of i and understood myself when, right those decades before, I had passed through.
    My own perils, shocks I have had then; and, fundamentally, good luck at.

    That is, when one have had some verification of higher states and higher forces, but he has not yet understood the relation of ‘himself’, it is his ‘banal’ second state, to the higher (it is his real self).
    The relation of the lower self to the higher self.
    He still believes in ‘himself’, that ‘he’would get something, go somewhere; and that ‘he’ will do in his own terms.
    ‘O Satan, how low you had fallen,
    you that had said: -I will get to the far North!’
    (this should be somewhere in the Bible, I just heard it once, quoted).

    Because you have to come to learn that /you/ sleep.
    Adam and Eve according to me represent the so called, in the systhem, ‘magnetic center’.. All they have to do is just to attain to some higher level, actually where ‘I’ begins.

    Their fault had been that they ‘believed in themselves’, their imagined powers and possibilities: they didn’t know how much the machine is deceptful, how easy is to sleep.

    While, when Ouspensky told ‘G.’ that he couldn’t self remember, G. replied that “he who knows this knows already much”.
    If you know, the thing begins to work reversely for you.
    It is now you that in a certain sense’trick off’ the lower self.
    Just you try to be present /now/, and now, and now;
    without ‘asking permission’ to functions.

    But to get to, it is just begin real work, passing beyond magnetic center to ‘observing I’, you /shall/ know that the machine sleeps. Dante ‘awakens’ in the dark wood and shall experience all its danger and the dread of the ‘wild nbeasts’, before he can meet Virgil.

    If it ached enough, you won’t be eager so much to self justifications.
    Neither self blames! What is it, that self justifies, praises or blames?

    When it happens some unhabitual manifestation in my machine, or that puzzles me; and I ask myself ‘what had I done? What had I said?’, I do not seek furthermore a ‘logical answear’ to those questions, but try to ‘hold to’ the increased awareness.
    One way infact I would then lose so much time and energy is to try to analyse, to find some ‘logical’ explanation anyhow.

    But I try to ‘remember to remember’.

  4. Dean Whittingham

    The other morning my truck wouldn’t start. The inconvenience of having to jump start it and worrying about whether it was going to make me late for work made me angry and all of a sudden I was cursing the fact that we live in a competitive property based society having to sell ourselves to meet our basic needs.

    This is a common one for me and probably the greatest source of my negative reactions. I seem to have an obsession with having an aversion towards the economic system we operate in, and yet it also demonstrates or illustrates the mechanicalness of our own micro cosmos from a social cosmos point of view

  5. Hannah K

    One of my most frequently used justifications for why I can’t be Present is that I don’t have time, I have too much to do. I tell myself that I will work at being present this evening or at the weekend or on holiday, imagining that then I will have less to do and therefore more favourable conditions to Be. Of course by the time the weekend comes I have another list of things that I have to do and another pile of justifications why I can’t work at being present. I have become wise to this little ruse now and am working on breaking down my belief in the importance of ‘doing’ rather than ”being’ and strengthening the obvious realisation that I can Be while I’m doing!.
    I have also started to realise that my machine creates things to do that, when looked at objectively, aren’t actually necessary but to my machine feel vital. It’s like I have a slave driver within me that keeps my moving centre as a slave to it’s whims. When I read in “The Fourth Way” (my first fourth way book) the statement that “Man cannot do” I burst into tears. Subconsciously I knew exactly what Ouspensky meant and with that one statement, something within me was set free.

    1. Hicham B.

      I used to experience the same Hannah. On one hand; I keep postponing Work exercises to the coming days, on the other I don’t imagine myself not doing something. So, like you said I keep doing useless activities throughout the day.
      The realization of my own death and remembering it helped me starting the Work: being present wherever I am whatever the circumstances.
      I would to share the following Orage’s quote, which I believe is relevant to our case:
      “Time is the most important thing next to awareness. The flow of time through us gives us an opportunity to extract what we can. Time is the three-fold stream flowing through our three centers. We fish in time’s ‘ever-rolling’ stream; what we catch is ours, but what we don’t is gone. Time does not wait for us to catch everything in the stream, but if we catch enough we shall have enough to form the higher bodies—and thereby become enduring.”

      1. Hannah K

        Thank you Hicham, that’s a brilliant quote, perfect for me! What you say about awareness of death is also very true. Asaf’s workshop yesterday on Large Aims and Small Aims also made me very aware that if I am to attain my large aim of experiencing life from a place of pure awareness I am going to have to put in a much more concerted effort at being present than just a few bursts now and again when the conditions are favourable.