See this newsletter in other languages Trouble viewing this page? click here
DECEMBER 2005 • Vol 2, No 12
Presence • Awakening • Higher Centers • The Beloved • God
Being Present

a publication of the Fellowship of Friends

Deflecting Imagination 

Robert Earl Burton, who founded the Fellowship of Friends in 1970, keeps reminding his students that imagination is the most persistent obstacle to being present. In his words, “Imagination is the natural state of man and the number one problem in awakening. If we truly understood what imagination is, we would deflect it instantly.”

The state of imagination is starkly revealed in the Dutch manuscript painting you see on the right. Here, a maiden represents the intellectual part of the emotional center—the realm of the steward—overcome by the perpetual wheel of imagination. Instead of looking through the physical eyes with divided attention, the intellectual part of the emotional center is distracted by the constant flow of the many ‘I’s. Meanwhile, the wheel is being turned by a donkey that symbolizes the intellectual part of the instinctive center. About this painting, Mr. Burton commented: “This illustrates what occurs in the minds of men: the intellectual part of the instinctive center manipulates imagination.”

The aim of the work, of course, is to reverse this process: to consciously deflect the wheel of mechanical ‘I’s and turn our thoughts the other way—with work ‘I’s. That is, to be present instead of in imagination. As Mr. Burton has said, “Man is asleep, imagining that he is awake, and his greatest error is that he finds the subjects of his imagination more interesting than his own presence.”

Esoteric schools have always known about the power of imagination, although they expressed it in different symbols. For example, the Jewish tradition stressed guarding against ‘temptation’, the Christian tradition warned about ‘evil’, and much later the Sufi tradition poeticized the ‘veil’. But they were all talking about the same thing: how imagination, manipulated by the intellectual part of the instinctive center, displaces presence.

Schools of the past also knew that the only way to overcome imagination is to be present, and how difficult this is. It is difficult because the steward, which comprises a small number of work ‘I’s, is surrounded by thousands and thousands of mechanical ‘I’s that oppose presence. When speaking about this recently, Mr. Burton said: “It is called the Work because self-remembering is the path of greatest difficulty. Entering imagination is the easiest of all things, whereas having a work ‘I’ engage divine presence is the most difficult of all things.”

Mr. Burton explains that, “If you want to get rid of imagination, you must do the looking exercise or the listening exercise [actively looking and listening with divided attention are two of many methods we use to deflect imagination]”. He adds, “You cannot just wish imagination to go away because the next ‘I’ is already in place to keep you in imagination if it is not a work ‘I’. And when you are present, you must anticipate that the intellectual part of the instinctive center will try to do something to lure you away from presence.”

Prolonging presence requires constant vigilance with divided attention, accompanied by the relentless effort to recognize imagination, deflect it, and return to presence. As the Persian poet, Sanai, said, “Return. Even if you have broken your vow ten thousand times, return again, return.”

See our web site in 8 languages

  English English        Deutsch Deutsch      Español Español      Français Français

  Italiano Italiano       Magyar Magyar       Português Português    Russian Russian

Links of interest
• Videos of Robert Earl Burton teaching
Suggested reading
• Esoteric keys to understanding The Bible

Introductory lectures — monthly
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.

1— An introduction to the system
• The system is ancient, objective knowledge
• The microcosmos man can transcend himself
• Schools use precise methods for awakening

2— The four lower centers (requires lecture 1)
• How the lower centers function
• How the lower centers displace presence
• Using lower centers to reach higher centers

3— Promoting and prolonging presence
(requires lecture 1 and 2)
• The steward and intellectual parts of centers
• The instinctive center as the ‘mind behind the machine’
• Specific ways to promote and prolong presence

Membership information
The Fellowship of Friends is an esoteric school with centers worldwide. Membership is monthly. For details:
Find a center nearest you.
• Email

• Call 1-800-642-0212.

‘The Wheel of the Brain’, from an 18th century Dutch Manuscript. (The image reproduced here is for spiritual and educational use only, and is not to be used for any other reason.)

Thoughts on imagination
A man does not see the real world. The real world is hidden from him by the wall of imagination. Each center has its own form of imagination.
George Gurdjieff
People are asleep and dream they are awake. Imagination is always ready to work in us and deceive us. When self-remembering appears, it is immediately squashed [by imagination].
Peter Ouspensky
One thing that completely satisfies the machine is imagination. However, it does not satisfy the higher centers; imagination is repugnant to them. All the actions of the intellectual part of the instinctive center are aimed at luring one away from the present into imagination.
Robert Earl Burton  
Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment.
Do not wander; do not wander; remain mindful.
We are fond of our involuntary thoughts, and that is why they come.
Philokalia; Evagrios the Solitary  
Keep practicing remembrance until the world of imagination is lifted from you.
Ibn Arabi 
Know that the science of unveiling has no end to it.
Ibn Ata Allah 
Stay away from the market bazaar of thought-traffic. Tear away thoughts and uncover consciousness. Unveil the beautiful bride.
You have to evaluate how you spend every moment; with Presence or in Negligence.
Shah Naqshband
Anticipate trouble at every moment, and when it comes, encounter it as something expected.
Philokalia; Theophan the Recluse

I have gone out [of imagination]. I am alive!
Journey Forth By Day (The Egyptian Book of The Dead)

Newsletter contact
Have a question or concern? Write to the

Forward this issue to a friend
Please forward the newsletter to anyone who may have an interest in learning more about the Fourth Way and the Fellowship of Friends.

Go to our sign up form.

Send us your comments
Is this newsletter helpful? Let us know on our response form.

See back issues

Use the ‘safely unsubscribe’ link at the bottom of the newsletter.

Fellowship of Friends
(a non-profit religious corporation)
P.O. Box 100 · Oregon House, CA 95962
copyright © 2005 · all rights reserved

No part of this newsletter may be copied, reprinted, or reproduced in any form without written permission from the Fellowship of Friends.

If you have trouble reading this, click here.