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JUNE 2005 • Vol 2, No 6
Presence • Awakening • Higher Centers • The Beloved • God
Being Present

a publication of Fellowship of Friends

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, consciousness—all 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 nature.

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 include divided 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, identification, and negative 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.”

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Links of interest
• Videos of Robert Earl Burton teaching
Suggested reading about Fourth Way ideas
• 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)
• Observing how the lower centers function
• Recognizing when lower centers displace presence
• Using lower centers to reach higher centers

3— 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 presence

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

• Call 1-800-642-0212.

Bronze boy. Collection of Fellowship of Friends.

Thoughts on essence
A man’s real I, his individuality, can grow only from his essence.
George Gurdjieff
A 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.
Peter Ouspensky
Self-remembering 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.
Rodney Collin
Presence 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 within you.
Robert Earl Burton
The student must return to the child state he has lost.
Tibetan thought
Unless ye become as little children you cannot enter the kingdom of heaven.
Abandon complicated thoughts in order to see the concealed answer.
Jalaluddin Rumi
The essence of God is simple and invisible and essentially has no need of anything.
The Philokalia
The language of truth is simple.
To 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 younger.
Jalaluddin Rumi

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