Essence and Personality
The part of us that can be
present and consciously transcend itself
is what the system calls essence. As Mr.
Ouspensky said: “Sleep, awakening,
this does not refer to personality, it refers
to essence. Real development is in essence.”
Essence is who we are as we were born: our
race, our physical chemistry, our tendencies
and talents, and the way we respond to the
outer world. For example, each of us is
differently inclined toward things like
physical work, sports, travel, academics,
business, and the arts. Our natural interests
and preferences are not something we learn.
They are simply part of who we are.
Personality, on the other hand, is who we
become. It is everything we learn, everything
we are taught, everything we imitate. For
instance, we learn social behavior, we are
taught skills and professions, and we imitate
opinions, postures, and facial expressions.
All of these take on an imaginary life of
their own as a personality that gradually
displaces essence. We become artificially
complicated and lose touch with our simple
We can see essence in very young children
who are still innocent, pure, and interested
in everything around them. They are not
pretentious or self-preoccupied. They do
not live for tomorrow. They simply exist
as they are in the present moment. As Robert
Earl Burton points out, “Children
see what is in their environment whereas
adults become jaded.” This is because
the internal state of children is very close
to the third
state of consciousness. The difference
is that the awareness of children does not
attention and so they exist in a state
of fascination, not presence.
Essence in its purest form is a simple state
that is unaware of itself. Meanwhile, personality
consists of functions that include most
of our ‘I’s,
attitudes, prejudices, and behavior. These
functions serve a purpose yet they cannot
be conscious of themselves; they cannot
be present. The state of essence, however,
can become present by dividing attention.
It can then observe functions and be aware
of itself observing them. As Mr. Burton
often reminds us, “You are not what
you observe. You are what observes.”
As the state of essence becomes aware of
itself, presence transforms into higher
states of consciousness.
For this to be successful, some functions
of personality need to support essence in
the effort to be present. For example, the
highest part of personality is the steward
and the intellectual
parts of centers that generate work
‘I’s. These parts cannot
be present for themselves but they can promote
presence by giving essence a push in that
direction. They act as scaffolding so that
essence can learn to be present on its own.
As Mr. Burton says, “Development of
personality is true personality developing
work ‘I’s and essence wanting
to be present.” He adds that work
‘I’s by themselves are not enough;
that essence has to get in behind them and
actually be present.
Mr. Ouspensky explained that in right order
personality is a shield for essence, protecting
it from harmful planetary influences and
extreme changes in climate. This is even
more true internally where the right work
of personality is to shield essence from
the mechanical influences of imagination,
emotions, all of which corrupt essence
and prevent it from being present.
To the extent that personality indulges
mechanical ‘I’s, it is called
false personality because it reinforces
what is imaginary and false in us. But to
the extent that it deflects mechanicality
and promotes presence, it is called true
personality because it nourishes what is
true—the divine presence of our real
self. With the help of true personality
we can divide attention and through divided
attention we can return to the state of
essence, but this time with conscious presence.
To quote Hafiz, “The Beloved, with
his own hands, like a precious child, is
raising Himself in you.”
our web site in 8 languages
Robert Earl Burton teaching
reading about Fourth Way ideas
Esoteric keys to understanding The
We offer a series of free introductory lectures
in cities around the world. To register:
Call our USA information line (1-800-642-0212),
Find a center nearest you.
An introduction to the system
The system is ancient, objective
The microcosmos man can transcend
Schools use precise methods for awakening
The four lower centers
(requires lecture 1)
Observing how the lower centers function
Recognizing when lower centers displace
Using lower centers to reach higher
Promoting and prolonging presence
(requires lecture 1 and 2)
Developing the steward and intellectual
parts of centers
The instinctive center as the ‘mind
behind the machine’
Specific ways to promote and prolong
of Friends is a Fourth Way school with
centers worldwide. Membership is monthly.
Find a center nearest you.
Bronze boy. Collection of Fellowship of Friends.
Thoughts on essence
A man’s real I, his individuality, can
grow only from his essence.
strong personality means a strong influence
of what is not your own, of what you have
acquired—other people’s words,
other people’s views and theories. They
can form such a thick crust round essence
that nothing can penetrate it to reach you,
to reach what you are.
and self-remembering only enables a man to
shed the outer skin of personality and to
feel and act freely from his essence, that
is, to be himself.
is a simple, inconspicuous process. Essence
aware of itself is presence. In schools essence
is developed into presence. Essence blossoms
into presence. Never imagine wisdom to be
more than the conscious presence of the child
Robert Earl Burton
student must return to the child state he
ye become as little children you cannot enter
the kingdom of heaven.
complicated thoughts in order to see the concealed
essence of God is simple and invisible and
essentially has no need of anything.
language of truth is simple.
the intellectual mind, a child must learn
to grow up and be adult. But in the station
of love, you see old men getting younger and
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