principal effort one must make in order to awaken is to continuously
see what is in the present and avoid imagination." Robert
simple as it is, is hard to achieve because of the psychological
barriers that impede divided attention. The most pervasive of
these barriers is what the Fourth Way calls imagination.
Imagination includes daydreaming, random associations, introspection,
anticipating the future, recalling the past, and imagining things
about oneself and other people. Imagination is an invisible stream
that the mind swims in, but there are visible signs of it. For
example, a person with his eyes glazed and fixed is ‘lost’
in imagination. Awareness of himself and his environment is absent,
entirely absorbed by the inner workings of imagination. Although
the person is physically in the waking state of consciousness,
he has psychologically lapsed into imagination, into the realm
of dreams. Most people do not see any harm in this, partly because
it is so common, partly because it is satisfying to be in imagination,
and partly because there seems to be no need to displace imagination
kind of imagination can happen when, for instance, you look at
a vista or listen to an idea, but instead start to think about—to
imagine—a similar vista or a related idea. In other words,
instead of actually seeing or hearing what is in front of you,
you see and hear it in your imagination. It may seem ludicrous
at first, but in fact we become whatever we are imagining.
That is, we—our consciousness—disappear in the stream
of imagination and are consumed by the subject of our imagination.
Imagination can also manifest through talking (including talking
to oneself), through activity (such as always being busy), even
through eating (absentmindedly, frantically, or in a trancelike
state such as when reading at the same time). The same thing happens
when, instead of simply being present while brushing your teeth
in the morning, you become preoccupied with—in imagination
about—the day ahead and lose nearly all awareness of where
you are and what you are doing. Forecasting or replaying incidents
involving other people is yet another way that consciousness is
repeatedly sacrificed for, and replaced by, imagination. All these
manifestations may seem harmless and even necessary to living,
yet the truth is that without the conscious presence of divided
attention, imagination destroys the awareness needed to promote
self-remembering. In short, it keeps us asleep.
a person first hears about imagination, he perhaps sees it as
the exception to his normally alert state of mind. He does not
suspect that imagination is actually the rule; that it is an automatic
function ever poised to interfere with each moment of his life;
that unbeknownst to himself, he even imagines who he is and how
he appears to the world. But when a person learns about divided
attention and tries to remember himself, he may gradually begin
to ‘wake up’ by realizing more and more often how
his awareness is drawn away by imagination; how he forgets to
remember himself; and that self-remembering never happens by itself.
In fact, trying to self-remember demonstrates the power that imagination
has over one’s inner life. It also shows what it might mean
to escape from imagination and to become more conscious of the
reality of each simple moment.
and displacing imagination
Mr. Ouspensky explains, imagination is a result of uncontrolled
attention. The way, then, to work against imagination is to gain
control of attention and to focus attention in the present: to
look, to listen, to taste, to act with attention. It can help
tremendously to slow down, to do only one thing at a time, to
really pay close attention to your immediate surroundings. But
even these efforts are just a first step. To be truly conscious
efforts—efforts which promote presence—they must include
the divided attention of self-remembering. This means being aware
of looking while looking, being aware of listening while listening,
being aware of doing, while doing, whatever you are doing. Furthermore,
self-remembering must be sustained second to second to second.
This is the main difficulty. Initiating divided attention is one
thing. Prolonging it is another. So elusive is the delicate thread
of self-remembering that it requires great mastery of practice
and will—principally the will to keep overcoming the myriad
forms of imagination. Few people suspect that the continuous endeavor
to displace and disallow imagination is the struggle for one’s
soul. As Robert Burton has said, “Imagination takes the
place of your soul—the presence of your soul,” and
“to interrupt imagination with self-remembering is the most
difficult thing that a man can do.”
for next issue: negative emotions
psychological barrier that displaces the presence of self-remembering
is the expression of negative emotions. Next month we will examine
the purpose of controlling the expression of negative emotions,
and the significance this has in awakening.
of interest on our web site
See video clips of Robert
of Real Work by Girard Haven
reading about the Fourth Way
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We offer a series of free introductory lectures on a regular basis
in cities around the world. To register for the series, call our
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a center nearest you.
Foundation of the Fourth Way
Self-knowledge · Levels of consciousness
Man as a machine · Consciousness, will, and unity
Obstacles to awakening · Three lines of work
Theory of Centers
(requires lecture 1)
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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of the Youth of Marathon, bronze, circa 340 B.C., National Archaeological
Museum, Athens, Greece.
center has its own form of imagination. All the centers can be satisfied
with the imaginary instead of the real. Daydreaming does not pursue
any aim, and does not strive after any result. Men fail to see a
way out simply because they are hypnotized. Imagination is the force
that keeps them in a hypnotic state. To awaken for man means to
the first state a man is immersed in dreams. Then a man wakes up.
At first glance this is a quite different state of consciousness.
He can move, he can talk, he can make calculations ahead, and so
on. It stands to reason that he is in a better position than when
he was asleep. But if we go a little more deeply into things, if
we take a look into his inner world, we shall see that he is in
almost the same state as when he is asleep. Imagination is always
ready to work in us and deceive us.
excretion is represented by imagination, that is, a continuous production
of waste images, the by-product of past perceptions, which flow
through and out of the brain in a meaningless and unbroken stream.
In fact, dreaming goes on night and day, without a break.
you yield to imagination, something great disappears behind something
small. Imagination is the natural state of the machine. The aim
of imagination is to displace presence as quickly as possible. This
is why when one is present, it will offer an enticing array of subjects
to lure one away.
out imagination. Stop the pulling of strings. Confine thyself to
you keep the minds busy with some definite subject that will bridle
and control them, they throw themselves in disorder hither and yon
in the vague field of imagination.
Michel de Montaigne
the accumulation of false imaginations is cleared away, enlightenment
present moment abides, then slides away in haste.
time apart from the present is nonexistent. Plotinus
you are in Gyros, do not let your mind dwell upon the life at Rome,
and if you are in Rome, do not let your mind dwell upon the life
in Athens. Epictetus
you take these fancies to be real enough to engage you, you will
be led farther and farther away from tranquility.
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