Consciousness and Functions
“One must remember that consciousness
is not mind activity.”
Robert Earl Burton
is a wordless state of presence that is
simultaneously aware of itself and what
it observes. This state cannot be seen or
heard or touched, nor is it any of the 'I's
produced by the functions
of sensation, movement, thought, or feeling.
Even when we notice these functions and
the 'I's they produce in us, consciousness
usually remains unaware of itself observing
them. In the words of the system, it remains
Prompting consciousness to be aware of itself
is what self-remembering
has always been about for schools and those
possessing school knowledge. Seventy-five
years ago, Mr. Ouspensky said, “Emotion
is a function and sensation is a function,
but self-remembering is not. It is an attempt
to create in oneself a state of consciousness
without any relation to functions.”
The Sufi poet, Hakim Sanai, said the same
thing 750 years earlier: “Take your
place in the presence of the wordless.”
And 500 years before that, The Tibetan
Book of The Dead offered this directive:
“You yourself must recognize yourself
and you must stay with that experience.”
All of these are descriptions of trying
attention and be present. They are all
based on the knowledge that, without divided
attention, the four lower
centers function by themselves as we
walk, talk, eat, and go through the day.
Rumi said about this condition: “This
place is a dream. Only a sleeper considers
it real.” The sleeper is consciousness
and it must remember itself to reach presence—the
have always emphasized self-remembering
as the way to awaken higher
centers, or what the Sufis call “the
beloved,” and what both the Sufis
and the Bible refer to as “god.”
Higher centers reside above the realm of
and have a clarity of perception that is
not identified with—not attached to—the
lower centers. With inner presence and calm,
higher centers see the world more vividly
and objectively. Higher centers can be momentarily
evoked by unusual circumstances, but it
is rare and unreliable. Conscious control
of higher centers comes only through intensive
work on self-remembering.
Schools stress self-remembering because
in each moment our lower centers assert
themselves at the expense of divided attention.
As soon as we move, speak, think, or react,
consciousness loses awareness of itself
and collapses into functions. A Sufi aphorism
says it this way: “The lower self
prevents you from remembering god.”
To remember “god,” to sustain
presence, we need to recognize the full
range of our functions and be vigilant about
not letting the endless array of ‘I’s
Learning to separate consciousness from
functions is the special study and ultimate
goal of those in a school. As Mr. Ouspensky
says, “Functions can exist without
consciousness and consciousness can exist
without functions.” And from the Sufi,
Shabistari: “Set the world [lower
functions] aside and become a world within
of interest on our web site
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Robert Earl Burton teaching
suggested reading about the Fourth Way
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The foundation of the Fourth Way
Self-knowledge · Levels of
Man as a machine · Consciousness,
will, and unity
Obstacles to awakening · Three
lines of work
The theory of centers
(requires lecture 1)
Practical ways to seize and prolong presence
The 4 lower centers
The sex center
The soul, the spirit
(requires lecture 1 and 2)
How to introduce and sustain self-remembering
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Thoughts on consciousness
The term 'clear consciousness' or 'waking
state of consciousness' seems to have been
given in jest, especially when you realize
what clear consciousness ought in reality
to be and what the state in which man lives
and acts really is.
Real self-remembering is not in centers, it
is above centers.
The practice of self-remembering or division
of attention is connected with the attempt
to produce…the birth of consciousness
Consciousness is not functions. You are what
observes, not what you observe.
Robert Earl Burton
Who am I standing in the midst of this thought
thing is certain and all the rest are lies.
Someone will steal you away if you do not
stay near the beloved.
Take heed… that your heart be not deceived,
and ye turn aside, and serve other gods…
You must know how to shield the burning candle
from the winds.
The most precious of human things is the state
of being occupied with the present.
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