Presence • Awakening • Consciousness • Self-knowledge • Evolution Vol 1, No 6 • NOVEMBER 2004
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A publication of the Fellowship of Friends


“A man who identifies with anything is unable to remember himself. To remember oneself it is necessary first of all not to identify.” George Gurdjieff

Mr. Gurdjieff explains that when we look at something we are aware of it, yet most of our awareness goes into what we observe. Very little goes into consciousness of ourselves as the observer. This condition, which the Fourth Way calls identification, is the opposite of self-remembering. With self-remembering, attention is divided and we become aware of two things simultaneously: the object and ourselves looking at it.

When attention is not divided, we can become identified with anything: ourselves, our imagination, other people, the past and future, money, sex, politics, health, injustice… the list goes on. Identification happens when we are overly intent on something, such as when we are agitated or rushing or arguing. It is less evident but equally constant when we walk, talk, eat, read, watch TV, and work at the computer. Our attention is so drawn by the subject that our consciousness disappears into it.

Being mesmerized is just one side of identification. It can also stir us to impulsiveness, urgency, or frenzy. The degree and form of identification can range from apathy to efficiency, and from impatience to rage, and it can spill over at any time in a subtle or overt expression of negative emotions.

Paradoxically, identification makes us feel alert and alive because it heightens our focus on whatever we are seeing or doing. But this always happens at the expense of divided attention. Even though we are acutely aware, we have lost awareness of ourselves and our larger surroundings. The simple truth is that the more we identify, the less conscious we are, even though we may feel justifiably interested or determined or productive.

Work on identification

Overcoming identification does not mean losing our focus or interest. It means not allowing consciousness to collapse and disappear. Fortunately, we can learn to recognize that we are identified, or becoming identified, and this can be a reminder to engage divided attention; to step back from whatever we are identified with and be present.

By not expressing negative emotions, by governing extreme reactions, and, above all, by dividing attention, it is possible to release identification and replace it with self-remembering. Whatever form identification takes, the main solution is to be present while doing whatever we are doing. As an aid, we can find a catalyst in our surroundings for divided attention, such as a beautiful object, another person’s face, the sound of their voice, noises in the environment, or the feeling of our own body. These can become devices for reintroducing divided attention. In many cases, it also helps just to slow down, or to take a short walk and concentrate on the effort to self-remember.

The aim is not to ignore or avoid subjects of identification, but to transcend the state of identification and return to presence. As Robert Earl Burton has said, “For identification, we give up our greatest treasure, self-remembering.”

Links of interest on our web site
• See videos of Robert Earl Burton teaching
• Review suggested reading about the Fourth Way
• See the web site in your language (home page menu)

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— The 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

2— The theory of centers (requires lecture 1)
• The 4 lower centers
• The sex center
• Higher centers
• The soul, the spirit

3— Practical ways to seize and prolong presence
(requires lecture 1 and 2)
• How to introduce and sustain self-remembering

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 statue of a centaur. Collection of the Fellowship of Friends.

Thoughts on identification
Man is always in a state of identification, only the object of identification changes. A man becomes a thing, a piece of flesh; he loses even the small semblance of a human being that he has. So long as a man identifies or can be identified, he is the slave of everything that can happen to him.
George Gurdjieff
We become too absorbed in things, too lost in things, particularly when the slightest emotional element appears. This is called identification. It begins first with interest. You are interested in something, and the next moment you are in it, and do not exist any more.
Peter Ouspensky
The soul can only be created by long accumulation of the finest energy which the physical organism produces, and its crystallization through the continuous attempt to become self-conscious. But ordinary man cannot help spending this energy… on fascination with himself and the world round him.
Rodney Collin
One’s work is swept away when one becomes identified. If you aren’t careful you will spend a large part of your life in identification. Very small things catch us. One’s machine will identify with small and large matters with equal intensity, so desperate is it to undermine self-remembering.
Robert Earl Burton
He who hurries never arrives.
Zen master 
Today I have got out of all trouble, or rather I have cast out all trouble, for it was not outside, but within.
Marcus Aurelius
I see your mind tangled in knots from thought to thought and it greatly longs for release.
Dante Alighieri
Only consider at what price you sell your freedom and will.
No human matter is of serious importance.

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