“Remember yourself always and everywhere!” This short, compelling maxim was of such central importance to Gurdjieff that he had it inscribed on a banner and hung in the study house of his original “Institute for the Harmonious Development of Man” in France. In a way, it’s the whole teaching in a nutshell.
But while Gurdjieff was himself deeply religious, he was only too wary of what ensued when human beings in their usual state of “consciousness” got their hands on religion. So his version of self-remembrance is not so much about remembering a divine “other” out there (an easy target on which to project one’s own agendas), as about awakening in a whole new way to the imperishable scent of your own aliveness. To know yourself deeply and truly, from deep within yourself, is to know God as well. In fact, it’s the only way to know God.
As in all remembrance practices, self-remembering begins with a reawakening (sometimes an abrupt one!) to the vertical dimension: that deeper current of identity and purpose flowing beneath the horizontal timeline of our lives. It’s so easy to get caught up in the daily shuffle with all its attractions and diversions that we lose ourselves in the roles we play! Self-remembering has to do with going against the grain, intentionally moving in the direction of greater consciousness and inner freedom.
Gurdjieff laid out the stepping stones in one of his most famous aphorisms: “Behind personality stands essence. Behind essence stands ‘Real I.’ Behind ‘Real I’ stands God.”
Self-remembering is profoundly sensation-based. It’s never an intellectual datum that the mind simply assimilates and inventories. It’s like touching the vibrational field of your own aliveness from the inside, and it always brings a certain sense of holy fear and trembling. If it’s too mental, it’s not self-remembering.
But how does one remember oneself always and everywhere? Deliberate stops and momentary wake-up calls are one thing; living from a continuous awareness of your felt-sense aliveness is quite another! It’s rather on the order of St. Paul’s commendation to “pray without ceasing” — and in the final analysis, the two may well be directly related. For as Paul points out, “we do not pray, but it is the spirit that prays within us.” In the same way, we do not “remember” as a small-self-initiated act. Rather, there is something (or someone?) within us that lives in a continuous unbroken remembrance, and as we are gradually able to be in more reliable contact with it through a deepening attentiveness and inner recollection, then we live more and more easily within its orbit.
when the winter nights seep into bones….
inquiry for today~ how many times do you realize that you are waking up to your life?
Did you too see it, drifting, all night, on the black river?
Did you see it in the morning, rising into the silvery air –
An armful of white blossoms,
A perfect commotion of silk and linen as it leaned
into the bondage of its wings; a snowbank, a bank of lilies,
Biting the air with its black beak?
Did you hear it, fluting and whistling
A shrill dark music – like the rain pelting the trees – like a waterfall
Knifing down the black ledges?
And did you see it, finally, just under the clouds –
A white cross Streaming across the sky, its feet
Like black leaves, its wings Like the stretching light of the river?
And did you feel it, in your heart, how it pertained to everything?
And have you too finally figured out what beauty is for?
And have you changed your life?