Nothing New Under the Sun

As I get older and older I notice that the same old ideas keep on circulating round the world as though they were brand new—never been thought before… A good friend of mine says that the old books contain everything you need. I agree and I have even seriously contemplated not buying any more books till I am certain that I’ve got everything I really need from those I already have. Then I can start on Quantum Physics or something.

One of the books I have in my library is sixty-years-old—a book about thinking—Wake up Your Mind by Alex Osborn (1952) It is worth mining.

Not long after its publication Edward de Bono started on his series of practical investigative books which when I started teaching I found really useful as ways of getting kids thinking  but then I found Alex Osborn’s book and got a strong whiff of an idea that it had already been mined by de Bono without acknowledgement. Paying homage to the originators of thinking seems very important to me; it adds value to the long Conversation of [Hu]mankind.

‘The Conversation of Mankind’ is Michael Oakeshott’s phrase (1962): ‘As civilized human beings, we are the inheritors, neither of an inquiry about ourselves and the world, nor of an accumulating body of information, but of a conversation, begun in the primeval forests and extended and made more articulate in the course of centuries. It is a conversation which goes on both in public and within each of ourselves…’ In the Emotional part of Thinking Centre, I love this idea.

I make a contribution to the long conversation of humanunkind…

The conversation is an emergent property of endless chinwagging. Emergent properties are kept alive by ensuring that a system keeps on going round and round; the codifiers and abstractionists, the rule-makers and ritual followers, those who have forgotten their self by burying it in political or religious systems and formatory thinking have put paid to the productive Conversation of Humankind. They are not even conscious of doing so and therefore can neither be stopped nor reasoned with.

Anyway, to resume, Alex Osborn usefully catalogues a number of very simple things about mind which seem to me to be worth setting down in order. For example:-

By and large, our mental powers are fourfold:-

1. Absorptive power: the ability to observe, and to apply attention.
2. Retentive power: the ability to memorize and to recall.
3. Reasoning power: the ability to analyze and to judge.
4. Creative power: the ability to visualize, to foresee, and to generate ideas.

Do we always make these distinctions? What difference does it make when we do?

As an abstract concept, ‘mental powers’  is perhaps just a muddle, a linguistic container with a lot of formless goo in it. Separate out the bits and things become a bit less goo-like:-

This system can be elaborated by asserting that different parts of our mental apparatus are responsible for different approaches to what we like to think of as ‘reality’. Mental powers are not just the possession of one single ‘I’—many ‘I’s are involved in thinking things out: the ‘I’ that absorbs is not the same ‘I’ that retains which is not the same ‘I’ that reasons or the one that creates.

Different parts of our ratiocinative system are responsible for different way-stations in the system. Keep the ‘I’s separate and there’s not so much chance of confusing Absorbing-I with Reasoning-I—when Reasoning-I is not separated out Absorbing-I may find itself constrained into accepting only what can seem to be ‘reasonable’. Jump ahead too quickly into Creating-I and Retaining-I may not have done sufficient work to give Creating-I a fighting chance.

The work of mere Intellect, of Intellect on its own, has a bad press in Fourth Way studies as does Imagination.

Imagination and the Blue Guitar

Maurice Nicoll at Birdlip, September 21 1941 quotes Ouspensky: ‘A person is usually out. [She] is rarely at home…’ and he goes on:-

If a person is in the imagination and its meanings, he is then always out. He is not at home. Such a person does not see you. He sees his dream of you, his imagination of you, his illusion of you. This is not a very satisfactory basis for any real relationship. A tremendous shock has to be undergone for a person to pass from the meanings derived from imagination to the meanings that reality offers. Reality in this respect is at first sight a poor small thing  compared with all the wealth of meanings that the imagination supplies a person with, day and night.

You know that in the Work it is taught that you have to try to see yourselves apart from your imagination of yourselves. This is a long task and very difficult and painful. You may think you are charming but not notice you are usually rather rude and always lazy. And just in the same way, you have to try to see others without imagination. And this is also very difficult. It is imagination that blinds everyone in every direction. It blinds all mankind. You have heard one of the sayings of the Work about imagination in regard to mankind in general. It compares mankind with people in a hall of turning mirrors. These mirrors are so arranged that everyone thinks he is going forward toward some goal. But actually the mirrors are turning and people are going round and round in an ever-repeating circle. It is imagination that makes people believe in progress. Look only at this century! And this imagination has its roots in individual people’s imagination of themselves and the entirely false meanings they derive from their imagination. Imaginary people meet imaginary people. Imaginary people dress up to meet other imaginary people dressed up. Imaginary people converse politely with imaginary people. Imaginary people marry imaginary people. Imaginary people kill imaginary people—and so on. And since people are based on false personality, which is entirely composed of imagination, it is not so surprising that this is the case. All their meanings, in fact, most of the meanings people live by, are derived from false personality and therefore from imagination. Real meanings exist apart from the meanings derived from imagination. But it is difficult to find them without the help of something that is not based on

And this is a very special and worthwhile meaning of ‘imagination’ but it would not be quite accurate to assume that all ‘imagination’ is in the same boat. Like Intellect, it is a polymorphous concept.

Just as the endless mazes of the Intellect on its own are to be avoided or at least followed with an extremely reliable, maybe interactive, map, with a clear idea of where you’re starting from, so the insidious traps of Imagination are to be approached with circumspection. Above all it’s the Food of Pure Impressions that is to be prized by a Seeker of the Truth— things as they are (played on a blue guitar…)

A man bent over his guitar,
A shearsman of sorts. The day was green.

They said, “You have a blue guitar,
You do not play things as they are.”

The man replied, “Things as they are
Are changed upon the blue guitar.”

And they said then, “But play you must,
A tune beyond us, yet ourselves,

A tune upon the blue guitar
Of things exactly as they are.

Wallace Stevens
On the other hand, when it comes to creative activities, Alex Osborn provides a neat catalogue of the possible use of  imaginative processes, which is perhaps always a matter of putting two and two together.

He writes:-

As a term, imagination covers a field so wide and so hazy that a leading educator has called it [in 1952, remember]‘an area which psychologists fear to tread’. For imagination takes many forms—some of them wild, some of them futile, some of them creative. The berserk varieties include hallucinations, obsessions and other abnormalities…

The futile forms are fairly normal. [Gurdjieff’s concept of ‘imagination’…] They include such meanderings as sleep-dreams and day-dreams, and some harmful phases such as complexes, worry, and the blues. In these latter forms our emotions tend to make imagination work against us. However, to a worthwhile degree, we can conquer such imaginings by means of creative thinking…

The photographic forms of imagination give us our power of visual imagery by which our mind’s eye can see even those things which we have never seen.

Through speculative imagination we can even picture a nonexistent mountain in Florida—and can even cap it with snow!

Through reproductive imagination we can bring back many a scene from the distant past Look! I can now focus my imagination on my boyhood and see a little girl peering at me over our back-yard fence. Listen! I can even hear the words she actually said to me on that faraway day: “If you’ll give me a bite of that apple, I’ll give you a kiss.” Thus imagination can add audio as well as video to memory.

The third photographic form is structural visualization. My friend Larry Bell of Bell Aircraft can look at a flat blue-print and see a new type of jet fighter streaking through the sky. My daughter Kay can [look over] a dress pattern and see her self standing before her mirror in a brand-new costume of her own making.

Now we come to the vicarious, anticipative, and creative forms of imagination. Although the first two of these types are not strictly creative, they can be used creatively.

Vicarious imagination serves as a bridge—enables us to be someone else. When a soap-opera listener pictures herself as the glamorous girl friend of her radio Valentino, she thus uses vicarious imagination—but not creatively. However, by putting herself in the shoes of a sick neighbor and thinking up how to help her, she can make a creative use of vicarious imagination.

When we let anticipative imagination poison our minds with dire pictures of what may happen, we are far from being creative. But when we make ourselves foresee the best, while preparing for the worst, we make a creative use of anticipative imagination.

The highest form of imagination is the truly creative. Through this we seek new slants on old facts. We reach beyond the facts at hand in search of facts not yet known. Thus, in this phase of creativity, we use imagination as a search light. We beam it hither and thither, into the known and the unknown. Thus we ‘discover’…

Then, too, creative imagination can serve us as a mixer. Thus we use it to combine known elements in order to produce the unknown. By changing combinations, we turn out still more ideas—ideas which otherwise would not come to us. Thus we ‘invent’—whether it be a new plot, a new mousetrap, or a better way of living our lives.

And what is the best way to go about the process of producing results? Osborn states it like this and I am very conscious of going through this process while writing this Glob—it’s part of my habit-system; it has become part of me over the years:-

1. Orientation: getting an angle; picking out and pointing up a problem
2. Preparation: gathering material
3. Analysis: breaking material down
4. Hypothesis: piling up alternatives by way of tentative ideas
5. Incubation: letting up in order to gain illumination
6. Synthesis: putting the pieces together
7. Verification: judging the resulting ideas

Being a natural systems-maker—it’s the way I think I think best—I re-write it thus:-

And then, of course, because I eschew abstractions, I convert this into Multiple-I’s:-

Something strangely exciting happens in my brain when I convert a prose list into a diagram like this; my thinking becomes clearer, more dynamic; the bits of the list begin to fizz in the way that I imagine neuronic activity to work.

Going the Whole Hog

Alex Osborn again:-

When piling up hypotheses, we should go the limit. Obviously, the more ideas we accumulate, the better our chance of hitting upon the right ones. Quantity may thus ensure quality, as was brought out by JPGuilford, President of the American Psychological Association: ‘The person who is capable of producing a large number of ideas per unit of          time, other things being equal, has a greater chance of having significant ideas…’

By asking ourselves ‘else’ questions we can pile up quantities of ore by way of hypotheses, out of which we can refine gold in the form of solutions. ‘What-else?’ ‘Where-else?’ ‘When-else? ’ ‘How-else?’ ‘Who-else?’ ‘Why-else?’—all these ‘elses’ are helpful. And so are the ‘What-ifs?’

Here are a few guides to the kinds of self-interrogation which can lead to ideas:-

•    Put to other uses? New ways to use as is? Other uses if modified?

•    Adapt? What else is like this? What other idea does this suggest? Does the past offer parallels? What could I copy? Whom could I emulate?

•    Modify? New twist? Change meaning, colour, motion, sound, odour, form, shape? Other changes?

•    Magnify? How to make it bigger? What to add? More time? Greater frequency? Stronger? Higher? Longer? Thicker? Extra value? Plus ingredient? Duplicate? Multiply? Exaggerate?

•    Minify? How to make it smaller? What to subtract? Smaller? Condensed? Miniature? Lower? Shorter? Lighter? Omit? Streamline? Split up? Understate?

•    Substitute? Who else instead? What else instead? Other ingredient? Other material? Other process? Other power? Other place? Other approach? Other tone of voice?

•    Re-arrange? Interchange components? Other pattern? Other layout? Other sequence? Transpose cause and effect? Change pace? Change schedule?

•    Reverse? Transpose positive and negative? How about opposites? Turn it backward? Turn it upside down? Reverse roles? Change shoes? Turn tables? Turn other cheek?

•    Combine? How about a blend, an alloy, an assortment, an ensemble? Combine units? Combine purposes? Combine appeals? Combine ideas?

When I taught creative problem-solving and general ways of getting ideas going, I found the following way of working very useful; it combined Alex Osborn’s ‘elses’ with his guides to self-interrogation: I called it a SCAMPER Grid. The grid was laid out on the floor of the workroom with masking tape, each square measuring symmetrically about 3 feet so that individuals in the group I was working with could activate their brain by scampering from square to square with a problem in mind that they wished to address and talking about it to a partner who wrote things down for them. Twenty-one squares and 5 W’s (What? Where? When? Why? Who?) and a How? to apply to a problem in each square offered at least 126 different ways of looking at it. A single left click will get this more legible!

The whole thing could of course now be converted into a Multiple-I framework.

Preparing for a TED Talk

In idle moments, I have thought of offering to do one of these TED talks. Were I to be accepted, I would start off cringing slightly off-stage to the left saying how terrified I was of doing it with all these eyes looking at me; then I’d move a little to my left, fling my arms in the air and describe how excited I was at the prospect. I’d then at the centre of the stage challenge the audience to think about the common factor in the two statements ‘I am terrified’ and ‘I am excited’— ‘I’ of course. So what is this ‘I’ thing? And how can what sounds like the same entity be terrified and excited at the same time? Terrified over there and excited just here now. Then I’d stand back from where I wound up. “I’m thinking about these two feelings I’ve been describing… so now ‘I’—which sounds like the same entity yet again—is thinking…”


“Let’s redefine what’s been going on…”


Terrified-I and Excited-I are both what you could call Feeling-I’s; in Thinking-I this In-control-I (shoulders raised high!) is in a quite different place. Then it could go up the Logical Levels into Knowing-that-it’s-really-capable-of-delivering-a-TED-talk-I, Having-a-belief-in-what-it’s-talking-about-I and then Being-sure-of-itself-I before stepping forward into the front of the stage to inhabit Just-get-on-with-it-I.

At some stage I’d demonstrate how ‘I’ which is an abstraction can be made into a behaviour or set of behaviours which would further elaborate the concept of Mutiple-I’s

Another Visual:-

All concepts are built this way: here from the experience of countless experiential examples of applying ‘I’ to a verb (‘I sink’, ‘I swim’ and so on) we arrive at the concept of ‘I’ or ‘I-ness’. ‘I’ could be said to be an emergent property from our general awareness of life. A diagram representing the emergence of the concept ‘I-ness’ would require the arrows to go in one direction; to arrive at the concept of Multiple-I’s the arrows would need to go in the opposite direction.

It’s just the same principle for any abstraction. Take the concept of ‘Wisdom’, for example. The question might be ‘What would you notice in the behaviour of a person that would lead you to stick the label POSSESSED OF WISDOM on them. It might go like this:-

Exploding ideas has for a long time provided the same kind of excitement in my brain as thinking systemically. And then there’s the Figure of Eight… There’s no such entities as what are referred to as the ‘unconscious’ or ‘subconcious’; ‘consciousness’ itself is a meaningless abstraction.

Updating the Figure of Eight


How do we think about the things that are by conventional wisdom supposed to exist somewhere beneath the surface of our thinking?

There are two abstractions that have never made much sense to me: the Unconscious and the Subconscious; if there’s a ‘consciousness’ that is not conscious or below what is ‘conscious’ how can we possibly know about it sufficiently to be able to give it a name and run the risk of reifying something that is a no-thing?

Certainly there are things of which we are not aware; you only have to think of the noise inside your body to bring it to mind or the increasing pain in your neck if you’ve held it in one position for too long. The things of which we are not aware are simply not in awareness; but when we focus on them they bounce into ‘consciousness’; it’s not that they were somewhere with a name (in what we seem driven to call the ‘unconscious’ or the ‘subconscious’) but that they were perhaps, if you like, in the Other-than-conscious. Were I President of the universe, I would ban the use of the words ‘unconscious’ and ‘subconscious’ utterly and completely and simply use the concept of whatever it is that’s Other-than-conscious!

I have referred to the concept of the Figure of Eight on a number of occasions in these Globs. The way I have described them is simply as a sort of intellectual model. I recently had an opportunity to make it come alive by going through it accompanied by the spiel depicted here. Should you decide to follow the process begin confidently in the NOW (a single left click will get this more legible!) :-

The idea is that there are two kinds of modes of being: the Proto-self or Core Self without which nothing could happen—it bubbles & gurgles in the background all the time; and then there’s the Extended Self intimately connected with the Core Self at the crossover point of the Figure of Eight. Whatever is in the Core Self becomes manifested in a different kind of way in the contemplations of the Extended Self. This is just a way of talking; there is absolutely no intention to suggest that Core Self and Extended Self are real entities; once you’re into the experience you can forget about the words.

Patterns of thinking, curious imagery, things which in the Extended Self seem to be inexplicable have their beginnings down there in the bottom of the Figure of Eight—also just words…

A simple example which can be followed round the Figure of Eight: I have long had a strange desire for a perfectly smooth and well-manicured lawn; there seems to be something really spooky about my desire; somewhere down there there’s a story I tell myself about how it’s a necessity of life to have a clear area in the garden, to repel the rampant vegetation all round it—that’s just as necessary… This gives me a drive to push the mower round and round which provides a feeling of accomplishment. At this level the feelings are barely capturable and certainly not possible to put into words; these words describe the desire itself—they get nowhere near the feelings. I would not have it any other way.

Taking all this back up through the centre of the Figure of Eight, holding on to whatever it is that I’m working with, I focus my attention and ask what on earth it’s all about… ‘Earth’ may have something to do with it!—the profound consciousness of trimming a bit of the surface of the planet… But it’s not that alone. However, the words I’m using give me other ideas: a clear space in the middle of a complex of growth—that’s the way I conceive of the nature of my thinking life: clearing a space in the pell-mell of the conversation of humankind for me to be relatively clear about a thought process—that’s one of my ‘I’s; it’s an important one. I can then go back to all the lawns of my experience, starting with my father’s lawn; he was a stickler for a lawn that had stripes in it and a very neat edge. Part of me is tagged to that lawn—there’s an I-tag connected with my father’s lawn; it’s part of my autobiographical self.

When I’m in thinking/feeling mode I’m clearing a space in which I can assemble an order out of chaos.

In self-remembering I can detach myself from all this and stand in the middle of the current lawn and rise above the Figure of Eight to re-construct the whole process from a distance. Divided attention gets me this lawn and the whole concept of LAWN (as against rampant shrubbery) and I’m back in the NOW ready for another dive down into OTCM.

Those who have tried this exercise have walked the Figure of Eight thus activating every part of their Being—Moving Centre, Thinking Centre and Feeling Centre in turn and coming to tentative conclusions for themselves.


Those who went on this journey with me invented another exercise.

The idea they had was that thinking something out produces one kind of feeling which might result in ‘doing’ which in itself would lead to yet another kind of feeling & back into a different thinking. Scrambling thinking, feeling & doing in one undifferentiated scrum is not a productive mode of thinking.

It’s obvious when you think about it that feeling can interfere with thinking. Say there’s a project you’re working on, trying to think it out, but you know you should be doing something else; then your thinking is contaminated by feelings of guilt or hassle or just the felt need to be elsewhere. Trying to get on with doing something (anything) just worsens the feeling. Thinking disintegrates. Some way of breaking the vicious circle is needed which might simply be to drop everything & do something completely different.

And so the exercise they invented was based on this initial simple system:-

I apply this to the process of writing this Glob. It works like this:-

Working with this model, the group realised that this was not a 2-D event but a spiral rising upwards from the start-point. To run the exercise properly would require a cherry-picker. My diagram needs to come off the screen: each circuit entails a heightened sense of purpose in thinking-feeling-doing.

One of the great tools for thinking!

10 thoughts on “TOOLS FOR THINKING (R9)

  1. Hi COlin – Further thoughts:- I have assumed for the purposes of this that by feelings you mean sensory experience of feeling. What follows is based on that assumption.

    I am convinced, by the efforts of my recent research into such things, that there are no thoughts without there first being sensations or feelings. The feelings are the beginnings of thoughts and thoughts the beginnings of action/behaviour repeating in sequence forming a concentric circle. Each time there is an additional circle added the ripples reach further and further away from the central feeling – but the central feeling remains.

    In order to change the thoughts and behaviours resulting from the original feeling – we have to pay attention to that original feeling and explore what this might be trying to draw our attention to. Rather than to draw our attention away from it. If the thoughts are repeating in some way then the feeling’s call to our attention is not being met and causes us confusion. If what we are trying to “do” is something incongruent with our values and beliefs – The feeling repeats until it is finally listened to acknowledged and heard and what might be seen as the core issue gets dealt with.

    To know whether internal sensory experience is confirming congruence or incongruence we first have to know what our own congruence signal is. Our congruence signal is a sensory response to all things being right with us – for instance fits with our values, mission and morals or simply a set of sensations that we are familiar with that we know we get when something fits with us. Such feelings cause no confusion because there is no internal conflict. In other words having a feeling in and of itself is not necessarily a reason to stop acting.

    We can explore this on a sensory level by paying attention to what is going on inside us – where is the feeling situated – what sort of feeling is it – is it a feeling we are familiar with – when was the first time we experienced that feeling – was it a similar situation then – can we interpret that situation differently now – do we have more resources this time round?

    By coming to stillness within we can “listen” to what our body is trying to tell us. If the thoughts that followed the original feeling are confused or negative or counter-productive – it would seem to suggest that the planned action/behaviour is incongruent somehow with our core values or that there is some form of values conflict taking place, either within ourselves or between the giver and receiver of the behaviour or action. In this instance we need to resolve the values conflict in order to be able to take action that is right for us to take. Or that fits with our core I-ness which seems to be there in both diagrams in Colin’s piece.

    Or that the thought pattern has become an habitual one that gets in the way of action as a method of protection or manifests as an ineffective strategy, that can therefore be changed. We are using our anticipative imagination to no good effect in this instance

    What if we were to simply try on (with our anticipative, but also using our creative imagination and OTCM) a different thought interpretation of that sensory experience, how would that alter our proposed behaviour pattern – and what feeling do we get as a result? How does that feeling now compare with our congruence signal.

    This is doing something different than remaining in the fug – but gets to the core issue emanating from the original sensory experience and allows us to recognise it, attend to it, thereby letting it go and allowing it to relinquish it’s hold upon us or even to transform it through changing our relationship with it into something useful to be celebrated; A call to action that will result in growth.

    Since no two situations, no matter how similar, are actually the same, our interpretation needs to update itself in light of new information and resources gained between the then and the now. In order to do that with any success we need to stop thinking consciously because conscious thinking will take us to places we already know and are familiar with however, if we use our other than conscious minds we are likely arrive somewhere different.

    If however – by feeling you mean emotion – If I think of emotions as thoughts attached to and resulting from either previous or current sensory experience – then there is a different process required but one which gets out of the mind and into the body. It is practically impossible to separate body from mind because we are designed, in the broadest sense, specifically so that they work in harmony with one another continually interpreting, filtering, filing, forming beliefs and regurgitating information in an internal mutual body/mind bio feedback loop. In order to experience the body without interpretation we need first to quiet our minds.

    In other words what happens is a perpetual internal conversation which we as modern western human beings seem to have spent great effort in trying to ignore even in certain medical circles denying its existence until the miracle of modern neuroscience has told us otherwise. Perhaps it’s time to start listening to the conversation within with our other than conscious body/minds to enable us to know what is actually going on for us in any given situation; even then it will be a matter of interpretation rather than the truth, whatever that is.

    e.g. a sensation of butterflies in the stomach and rapid heart rate can mean both anxiety to one person and excitement and eager anticipation to another dependent upon contexts and previous life experiences.

    On a practical level being in touch with what is happening inside of ourselves on a sensory level can inform our decision making and thought processes so that we become both congruent and authentic in our speech and actions. On either basis “feelings” are no reason in themselves to stop “doing” they are however a reason to do something different in order to re-congruitise (?) and move on.

    I think it’s what you’re illustrating in your figure of eight.

    Just another thought stream provoked by an internal sensory experience when reading your blog Colin and as a result of an previously and ongoing internal and external conversation.


    1. That’s terrific, Pat: ‘…another thought stream provoked by an internal sensory experience…’

      It’s as JGBennett said all thinking is a progressive approximation towards the ‘truth’ of the matter.

      With your qualifications and insights in body/mind it’d be great to do all these circuits again. I can see that ‘Thinking out this Glob’ in the final diagram ought to be preceded by the feeling/emotional understanding that it’d be worthwhile to do the thinking, for instance. I suppose it’s the same old NLP thing that we start from where we’re programmed: I tend to be programmed to start with ‘thinking’ as though that’s where everything starts.

      Thanks for the shift, Pat.


    1. Dear Pat

      When the group I was working with came up with the idea of the last model depicted in my Glob they said that at each stage of the circuit (which goes round and round indefinitely) the ‘feelings’ evoked by each stage of ‘doing’ and ‘thinking’ would change and so would ‘doing’ and ‘thinking’ on and on. And so they would in your terms become ‘…a reason to do something different in order to re-congruitise…’ and move on..’ to the next stage. Gaining congruity of the whole (thinking/feeling/doing) is perhaps what this exercise might be said to be about; maybe by investigating the implications (infoldedness) of the Figure of Eight amongst other things.

      Yes, by feelings I do mean sensory experience of feeling. And I do wonder whether that’s not all there is. Emotions are human inventions based on or decorating or going beyond the immediate sensory experience of feeling; I therefore tend to mistrust the very concept of ’emotions’ (all of them) preferring to stick with what Gurdjieff calls ‘pure impressions’ – those we register before the cumbersome weight of human mental ingenuity gets going. As you say ‘…emotions [are] thoughts attached to and resulting from either previous or current sensory experience…’ and therefore maybe likely to falsify the original unsullied sensory ‘feeling’.

      Your statement that ‘…feelings are the beginnings of thoughts and thoughts the beginnings of action/behaviour repeating in sequence forming a concentric circle. Each time there is an additional circle added the ripples reach further and further away from the central feeling – but the central feeling remains…’ made me realise that a good way to start this exercise would be to cash in on the fundamental NLP idea that we are programmed to respond to the world in different ways. So I would have provided that context to start with. Then in setting up this exercise I would say, “Think of something you’re intending to make happen – a project or whatever… How would you start off? By doing something, by entertaining a feeling of some kind, or by thinking it out?” That would give space for people to respond according to their programming. So I might have said, “I’d think about it first…” because that used to be [!] according to my programming. Then I’d say to myself, “And before that…?” opening up the possibility [certainty!] that I’d have felt something before thinking about it or I might even have done something random (my learning style dictates that) “And before that…?” I’d have felt impelled to do something… ‘And before that…?’ is a great question to ask to get people to work back to sources of behaviour. All this would be to emphasise the endlessness of the circuit – well, ‘endless’ till one sensed (or even felt) a way of working with it.

      Maybe an original feeling is just a hunch which becomes refined/changed by subsequent thinking/doing and congruity is achieved by going the circuit. Then having a ‘congruence signal’ would be really important – which suggests a whole new exercise. I fancy that might be a ‘somatic marker’ of some kind. So, for instance, now I’ve thought about it, the well-mown lawn image that came from the bottom of my Figure of Eight might well be my own somatic marker for congruence – thoughts/feelings/doings all in neat stripes, no weeds or molehills…[!]

      New exercise: find what would count for you as a ‘congruence signal’. How would you mark it? What I-tag does it have?

      Like you say: ‘…where is the feeling situated – what sort of feeling is it – is it a feeling we are familiar with – when was the first time we experienced that feeling – was it a similar situation then – can we interpret that situation differently now – do we have more resources this time round…?’

      And the clues come from the ‘stillness within’ which is where the ‘Food of Pure Impressions’ may be laid out, buffet-style. Habitual thinking/feeling suspended, no doing.

      Then your question: ‘What if we were to simply try on (with our anticipative, but also using our creative imagination and OTCM) a different thought interpretation of that sensory experience, how would that alter our proposed behaviour pattern – and what feeling do we get as a result? How does that feeling now compare with our congruence signal?…’

      Doing the circuits again with the sense that we are ‘…listening to the conversation within with our other than conscious body/minds to enable us to know what is actually going on for us in any given situation…’ would really work: our Multiple-I’s chatting one one another.

      Thanks Pat



      1. Dear Colin

        Thank you so much for developing the idea so elegantly and indeed eloquently, my only further question to would be explorers would be “and why is this important to you?” That way whatever is happening or about to happen is more likely to be aligned with core values. By which I mean values that have been previously investigated and found to be deeply held across a variety of contexts.

        But that might be the subject of a whole other piece of work; a pre-exercise exercise?

        Many thanks for your thoughts – I think/sense there is a very valuable exercise contained within, one through which those participating can fully engage with the Multiple-I’s chatting to one an

        Thank you Colin.


  2. Hi Colin,

    I always look forward to your quotes from Ouspensky, but rarely has one resonated so strongly with me as this line from the excerpt near the top of this post – “It is imagination that blinds everyone in every direction. It blinds all mankind.” I doubt that a better case has ever been made for the merits of meditation and mindfulness practice, as a way of piercing through the veneer of imagination and beginning to see things as they really are.

    And the image evoked by his analogy of humanity trapped in the hall of turning mirrors is haunting in the way it captures how tragically imprisoned we are by our imaginations.

    The only hopeful thought I have is that if someone can describe our plight with such a stunningly powerful vision as Ouspensky does here, then maybe there is still a chance that we will someday envision a way out of this blindness.

    Maybe, as we alluded to in the comments we exchanged subsequent to your last post, it’s “consciousness” on the grand scale that’s needed. What do you think?



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