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JANUARY 2006 • Vol 3, No 1
Presence • Awakening • Higher Centers • The Beloved • God
Being Present

A monthly newsletter for putting Fourth Way ideas into practice.

A publication of the Fellowship of Friends

Reaching Presence 

Efforts to promote presence are not presence itself. They are sparks. They remind the wordless state of your true self to remember itself—to be present. Mr. Ouspensky explained this when he said, “Consciousness is something different from thought. You use thought just to give a push, and then you become conscious without thought.”

This ‘push’ is the job of work ‘I’s—intentional thoughts that promote and prolong presence. For example, the thought “Read with presence” sharpens the effort to divide attention. It makes self-remembering definite and specific to the task at hand right now. In other situations, it may be “Look with presence,” “Walk with presence,” “Speak with presence.” As Robert Earl Burton, founder of the Fellowship of Friends, has said, work ‘I’s are conscious thinking; thinking that promotes presence in the moment.

For example, if you take a short walk with the sole aim of being present, you will see almost immediately how mechanical thoughts enter about the past and future, about something unrelated to the present moment, even about something you see on your walk. Yet none of these thoughts, none of these ‘I’s, are presence. They are all distractions—lures—from presence, and the way not to be distracted is to employ work ‘I’s.

Whatever the situation, work ‘I’s keep cutting through the traffic of mechanical ‘I’s. They deflect imagination and aim repeatedly at the target of being present. “Avoid imagination.” “Drop it.” “Don’t follow that subject.” “Come back to the present now.”

Introducing work ‘I’s amidst the flow of mechanical ‘I’s is never easy. It requires preparation, practice, and diligence. But even then, work ‘I’s do not always lead to presence. Why? Because work ‘I’s belong to the four lower centers. They exist in the second state of consciousness and do not always produce enough spark to ignite the third state.

Reaching the third state means going beyond work ‘I’s to wordless presence itself. About this, Mr. Burton says, “When you have a work ‘I’, which is already difficult, it is merely half the battle. The other half is ensuring that it engages presence. Work ‘I’s do not have any value unless they actually engage presence. You have to get in behind the work ‘I’s and be present.”

The Buddha said the same thing: “Any spiritual act performed half-heartedly will not produce great fruit.” Centuries after him, the Sufi, Ibn Ajiba, advised: “Do not be satisfied with anything as long as you have not arrived at the divine presence.” They were both saying, as all schools have said, that the real success of efforts is presence itself.

Even when work ‘I’s are successful, presence usually lasts only a few seconds before it gets displaced by mechanical thoughts. As Mr. Ouspensky put it, “When self-remembering appears, it is immediately squashed.” He was referring to imagination which keeps reasserting itself, and he was pointing to the fact that we must keep reasserting work ‘I’s.

To generate work ‘I’s, however, takes tremendous effort, largely because we are so reluctant to give up our interest and inertia in mechanical ‘I’s. We like the subjects of our imagination and we enjoy the ease of the second state. We are not compelled to let these go and exist without them. We may even derive satisfaction from work ‘I’s themselves. Yet work ‘I’s are designed to push us out of the second state, so we cannot cling to them either.

The work of schools has always been to deflect imagination and use work ‘I’s to gain command of presence. In our school, we develop short work ‘I’s that assert themselves and quickly step aside so that presence can emerge. More and more, we put emphasis on presence itself.

Mr. Burton said recently that when higher centers hear crisp work ‘I’s, they are eager to respond with presence. He added, “When you rise from imagination to presence itself, you verify that what you were thinking about does not matter; that the thousands of mechanical ‘I’s are vaporous, unconscious activity; and that even work ‘I’s exist in the second state.”

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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 a school for spiritual awakening with centers worldwide. Membership is monthly. For details:
Find a center nearest you.
• Email

• Call 1-800-642-0212.

The Eqyptian sun god, Re, symbolizing the successful emergence of presence. (The image reproduced here is for spiritual and educational use only, and is not to be used for any other reason.)

Thoughts on reaching presence
The aim consists in awakening consciousness.
George Gurdjieff
Evolution is always the evolution of consciousness.
Peter Ouspensky
We have ten thousand mechanical ‘I’s and it is very competitive to push up a work ‘I’ in between them; the weeds of imagination tend to crowd out the seeds of presence. We live in a machine that is in an almost permanent state of imagination. It leads an imaginary existence. The price for awakening, however, is giving up the second state.
Robert Earl Burton  
Once called, do not seek to remain in the world for any reason at all; obey the call straight away.
There are many who believe the sayings of the Scriptures, but have not the strength to fulfill what is written.
There is no advantage in the reciting unless the words you are reciting become embodied in you in the form of action.
Syriac Fathers 
You may have intellectually understood a high view, but unless you act in accordance with its meaning you stray from the path.
True spiritual knowledge implies action and if it does not do so, then it is not really knowledge.
Ibn Arabi

After God’s order of ‘Be’, become better than words.
Jalaluddin Rumi

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