Verify, Verify, Verify! Believe Nothing You Cannot Verify for Yourself (R10)


You have no business to believe me. I ask you to believe nothing that you cannot verify for yourself… If you have not a critical mind, your visit here is useless.  GIGurdjieff

In the beginning it feels like we cannot but choose to believe certain things: that food will appear from somewhere, bottle or breast; that when we scream somebody will pick us up, if we’re lucky,  and comfort us; that when we take to crawling around the floor we will get somewhere other than where we were before.

Then we get things stuck on us: Father Xmas, God, a belief in The Inevitability of Periodic Reciprocal Destruction, the need to pay taxes to support it, the requirement to go to school, selling our souls as wage slaves to the Power Possessors. We become brainwashed into believing all sorts of wacky things and we quite quickly learn to have an uncritical mind because it’s altogether more comfortable and safer to go along with the herd. Anything for a quiet life.

We learn one particular program above all: ‘This is how you have to do things—it’s how they’ve always been done…’; it’s very rare that anybody tells us we could operate with a completely different program—‘You can do things any which way you choose…’

Then we start believing what we read; a school dishes out text books on the understanding that we have to believe what we read and to learn it like a parrot or we’ll fail our exams.

There’s a strange trait in our psyche, says Gurdjieff in Beelzebub—‘that of being satisfied with whatever Smith or Brown says without trying to know more… [this became rooted in us] long ago, and now [we] no longer make the least effort to know anything that can be understood solely by [our] own active reflection…’ This process is the result of the inner evil god called ‘self-calming’, says Gurdjieff, or Anything for a Quiet Life…

Maybe it’s not such a strange trait—the pressure’s on.

Then, unfortunately it’s all too easy to hide behind a pretence of active reflection, easy to imagine that you stand out from the herd.

People ‘believe everything anybody says instead of believing only what they have been able to verify by their own sane deliberation… they no longer make the least effort to know anything that can be understood solely by their own active reflection…’ There are pretenders who like to imagine that they are engaging in acts of profound verification.

Maybe I am one such…

Three Key Notions

Against all this, Gurdjieff had crystallised in his ‘common presence’ during his ‘preparatory age’ three key notions:-

•    one deriving from his dying grandmother’s advice, “In life never do as others do… Either do nothing—just go to school—or do something nobody else does…”
•    as a result of that he determined to learn the real causes of all things and to go into the learning with gusto…
•    …when you go on a spree go the whole hog, including the postage…

This must be done so that a certain something should flow through your whole presence, settling forever in every atom comprising it, in order to acquire ‘vivifyingness’ which I take to be a living factor that occurs when your whole being is engaged: all ‘Centres’ alive & kicking in synch, your whole brain & body fired up, neo-cortex (=Intellectual ‘Centre’), limbic area (=Emotional Centre), and reptile system (=Moving Centre) working together; able to think, feel and act in equal measure. (See the Triune Brain, Paul Maclean 1960-ish)

What would things have been like if you had decided to let Gurdjieff’s three key notions inform your Being at an early age? Perhaps if you had done so by now you would have been able to verify their usefulness (or otherwise) for yourself…

What is Verification?

Perhaps it’s simply the activity of systematically trying something out for yourself and holding yourself to it? Keats in Letter 123: ‘…Nothing ever becomes real till it is experienced….’

As it happens, I am inclined to think that I had already gone through Gurdjieff’s three key notions by the time I first read Beelzebub in the 1980’s. His three bits of psycho-data chimed with me as soon as I read them—it was a bit like reading the book of myself; I recognised what he said as having already worked for me—it was how I had run my life for forty years. Verification post facto. Some had called it ‘being bloody-minded’; I asserted, with Thoreau, that I was never ever out of step—simply that I was marching to the sound of a different drum.

•    When I was ten, I heard my own grandmother tell my despairing mother, for reassurance I suppose, that I’d grow out of all my manifestations of ‘being awkward’ by the time I was thirty. This determined my resolve never to grow out of them.
•    Going the Whole Hog… One example. When I did two years so-called ‘National Service’ I developed a great contempt for the incompetent (but very likeable) officers, commissioned and non-commisioned, I rubbed shoulders with on a daily basis; the experience turned me into a pacifist via the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament; this led to non-violence towards all creatures and I became a vegetarian and, ultimately a Tolstoyan anarchist. This was about following an argument to its very (to me) logical conclusion, never mind the postage…
•    I developed an intellectual urge to get to the bottom of things; it was never enough to go along with the way things seemed to be, the way they are presented in the media. There was a man in an office I passed my time in, Andrew Merritt—1955—oh where are you now, Andrew?—who showed me how to get to the bottom of things literally by getting hold of a great fat file full of papers, letters, calculations that overwhelmed me and tipping it all out on the desk to start from the beginning, to reconstruct its whole story. I see him doing it now… This action on its own has served as an anchor for a way of unpicking the way things are.

I Looked Up to Andrew Merritt

You can verify the truth of something by taking what somebody with a reputation and some kind of credentials says and test it out for yourself. ‘So and so says so…’—they may have universal credibility but you need to find out how they have achieved it.

This happened by reverse in my relationship with Gurdjieff, at least to start with—I had already done what he suggested and found that his own description presented me with a confirmation that my way of dealing with the world, though obviously far from unique, worked. It led, I think, to at least the possibility of my being a Good Householder: applying his principles, I had achieved ‘success’ in ordinary life terms—held down a job and paid off the mortgage— but I was left with a real nagging feeling that ‘There Must Be Something More to Life Than This’—the qualification for being a candidate for following the 4th Way according to Ouspensky…

I am reminded of the Autodidact in Sartre’s Nausea who was only satisfied with something he was thinking when he discovered that some ‘real writer’ had already committed to paper what he (the Autodidact) thought he had discovered for himself.

Many ‘I’s

It seemed that I was already prepared to accept the sense in Gurdjieff’s thinking at the beginning of Beelzebub; then I discovered that he also asserted, amongst other things, that we are not a Unity—there is no Unified-I—we are composed of many ‘I’s. Because I respected him through my own experience of the three key notions I had to find out what he meant by this—maybe this would work for me as well. Since Gurdjieff said one thing that rang true for me, maybe this would make sense too. This is called putting a provisional trust in an author or thinker until you’ve verified what they say for yourself.

Much later I learned to come to terms with Stephen Covey’s 5th Habit of Highly Effective People—seek first to understand before ever trying to make yourself understood. I take this to be a very important part of the process of verification—find out what somebody means before expressing your own way of thinking about whatever it might be: simply proclaiming what you think about it may block progress in understanding. I conceived a desperate need to understand the following from In Search of the Miraculous:-

Very often, almost at every talk, G. returned to the absence of unity in human beings. “One of our important mistakes,” he said, “one which must be remembered, is our illusion in regard to ‘I’…”

…I changes as quickly as thoughts, feelings, and moods, and we make a profound mistake in considering ourselves to be always one and the same person; in reality we are always a different person, not the one we were a moment ago. There is no permanent and unchangeable I. Every thought, every mood, every desire, every sensation, says ‘I.’ And in each case it seems to be taken for granted that this I belongs to the Whole, to the whole person, and that a thought, a desire, or an aversion is expressed by this Whole. …But our every thought and desire appears and lives quite separately and independently of the Whole. And the Whole never expresses itself, for the simple reason that it exists, as such, only physically as a thing, and in the abstract as a concept. …There are… hundreds and thousands of separate small I’s, very often entirely unknown to one another, never coming into contact, or, on the contrary, hostile to each other, mutually exclusive and incompatible. Each minute, each moment, we say or think ‘I.’ And each time the I is different. Just now it was a thought, now it is a desire, now a sensation, now another thought, and so on, endlessly. We are a plurality.

‘Man’s name is legion’…

The alternation of I’s, their continual obvious struggle for supremacy, is controlled [for example] by accidental external influences. Warmth, sunshine, fine weather, immediately call up a whole group of I’s. Cold, fog, rain, call up another group of I’s, other associations, other feelings, other actions. [As things stand]…there is nothing in us able to control this change of ‘I’s—we do not notice, or know of it; we live always in the last I we happened to be in. Some
I’s, of course, are stronger than others. But it is not their own conscious strength; they have been created by the strength of accidents or mechanical external stimuli. Education, imitation, reading, the hypnotism of religion, caste, and traditions, or the glamour of new slogans, create very strong I’s in Personality, which dominate whole series of other, weaker, I’s. But their strength is the strength of the ‘rolls’ in the centers. And all I’s making up Personality have the same origin as these ‘rolls’; they are the results of external influences; and both are set in motion and controlled by fresh external influences…

Boosting the Ego

Of course, the Western psychological tradition has been responsible for crystallising in us the idea that the ‘I’—the ego—is there to be strengthened at all costs. Know thyself, to thine own self be true, self-actualisation as the pinnacle of the hierarchy. There’s an unquestioning acceptance of some single Unified-I to which we are supposed pay earnest attention. So it’s not that easy to take the concept of Multiple-I’s on board—it needs a good deal of one’s own active reflection and application.

In response to the mantra ‘Know thyself’, Gurdjieff would probably have us ask, “Which self?” Many selves, many ‘I’s…

Being already familiar with the distinction GHMead drew between the ‘I’ and the ‘me’—an observer looking with relative objectivity at the antics of what it was observing—I was again already halfway there.

William James has been a hero of mine since adolescence. I—provocative-I— once deliberately incurred the wrath of a teacher in East London Polytechnic by asserting that you didn’t need to read anything about psychology after William James, whose Textbook of Psychology came out in 1892.  He has everything, including things that one might want to refine and qualify; since his time there has been a crossing of swords between Behaviourists and Field Theorists and a great improvement in techniques of measurement and testing and the expert reduction of things to statistical cobblers; but all the starting points are in James, including what amounts to stuff about Multiple-I’s.

The Me and the I

Whatever I may be thinking of, I am always at the same time more or less aware of myself, of my personal existence. At the same time it is I who am aware; so that the total self of me, being as it were duplex, partly known and partly knower, partly object and partly subject, must have two aspects discriminated in it, of which for shortness we may call one the Me and the other the I. I call these ‘discriminated aspects’, and not separate things, because the identity of I with me, even in the very act of their discrimination, is perhaps… [just] common-sense, and must not be undermined by terminology…

The Empirical Self or Me

Between… me and… mine the line is difficult to draw. We feel and act about certain things that are ours very much as we feel and act about ourselves. Our fame, our children, the work of our hands, may be as dear to us as our bodies are, and arouse the same feelings and the same acts of reprisal if attacked. And our bodies themselves, are they simply ours, or are they us?

We see then that we are dealing with a fluctuating material; the same object being sometimes treated as a part of me, at other times as simply mine, and then again as if I had nothing to do with it at all. In its widest possible sense, however, the Me is the sum total of all that you can call yours, not only your body and your psychic powers, but your clothes and your house, your family, your ancestors and friends, your reputation and works, your lands and horses, and yacht and bank-account. All these things give you the same emotions. If they wax and prosper, you feel triumphant; if they dwindle and die away, you feel cast down—not necessarily in the same degree for each thing, but in much the same way for all.


In Gurdjieff’s terms what James is talking about here is identification: in ordinary life more or less everything is identification; we sink our selves in what we identify with; in doing so we lose our selves and become mechanically attached to things which do not last.  Gurdjieff said:  ‘It is difficult to free oneself from identifying because you naturally become more easily identified with the things that interest you most, to which you give your time, your work, your attention. Be merciless with yourself; do not be afraid of seeing all the subtle and hidden forms which identifying takes…’ (ISOTM p150)  Recognising the things with which you are identified is the first step towards being able to disidentify in order to find your Real-I.

William James sets off on the road towards the concept of Multiple-I’s by suggesting the categories of Material-I, Social-I and Spiritual-I.    What stops him from going all the way, it seems to me, is that he chooses to refer to the categories as representing an object of contemplation (the ‘me’) rather than subjects into which we can step at will, without making the necessary adjustments, viz Material-me, Social-me and Spiritual-me.  Here are further examples of identification and evidence of Multiple-I’s:-

The Material Me

The body is the innermost part of the material me in each of us; and certain parts of the body seem more intimately ours than the rest. The clothes come next. The old saying that the human person is composed of three parts—soul, body and clothes—is more than a joke. We so appropriate our clothes and identify ourselves with them that there are few of us who, if asked to choose between having a beautiful body clad in raiment perpetually shabby and unclean, and having an ugly and blemished form always spotlessly attired, would not hesitate a moment before making a decisive reply. Next, our immediate family is a part of ourselves.

Body-I, particular parts of body-I, clothes-I, family-I, son-I, daughter-I…

Our father and mother, our wife/husband and babes, are bone of our bone and flesh of our flesh. When they die, a part of our very selves is gone. If they do anything wrong, it is our shame. If they are insulted, our anger flashes forth as readily as if we stood in their place. Our home comes next. Its scenes are part of our life; its aspects awaken the tenderest feelings of affection; and we do not easily forgive the stranger, who, in visiting it, finds fault with its arrangements or treats it with contempt. All these different things are the objects of instinctive preferences coupled with the most important practical interests of life. We all have a blind impulse to watch over our body, to deck it with clothing of an ornamental sort, to cherish parents, wife, and babes, and to find for ourselves a house of our own which we may live in and ‘improve’.

An equally instinctive impulse drives us to collect property; and the collections thus us made become, with different degrees of intimacy, parts of our empirical selves. The parts of our wealth most intimately ours are those which are saturated with our labour. There are few people who would not feel personally annihilated if a life-long construction of their hands or brains—say an entomological collection or an extensive work in manuscript—were suddenly swept away. The miser feels similarly towards his gold; and although it is true that a part of our depression at the loss of possessions is due to our feeling that we must now go without certain goods that we expected the possessions to bring in their train, yet in every case there remains, over and above this, a sense of the shrinkage of our personality, a partial conversion of ourselves to nothingness, which is a psychological phenomenon by itself…

The Social Me 

Our social me is the recognition which we get from our mates. We are not only gregarious animals, liking to be in sight of our fellows, but we have an innate propensity to get ourselves noticed, and noticed favourably, by our kind. No more fiendish punishment could be devised… than that one should be turned loose in society and remain absolutely unnoticed by all the members thereof. If no one turned round when we entered, answered when we spoke, or minded what we did, but if every person we met ‘cut us dead’, and acted as if we were non-existing things, a kind of rage and impotent despair would before long well up in us…

Properly speaking,  you have as many social selves as there are individuals who recognise you and carry an image of you in their mind… You have as many different social selves as there are distinct groups of people about whose opinion you care. You generally show a different side of yourself to each of these different groups. Many a youth who is demure enough before his parents and teachers, swears and swaggers like a pirate among his ‘tough’  young friends. We do not show ourselves to our children as to our club-companions, to our customers as to the labourers we employ,  to our own masters and employers as to our intimate friends. From this there results what practically is a  division of the human being into several selves…

This is the closest William James gets to the concept of Multiple-I’s—but how close!

The most peculiar social self which one is apt to have is in the mind of the person one is in love with. The good or bad fortunes of this self cause the most intense elation and dejection—unreasonable enough as measured by every other standard than that of the organic feeling of the individual. To your own consciousness you are not, so long as this particular social self fails to get recognition, and when it is recognised your contentment passes all bounds.

Your fame, good or bad, and your honour or dishonour, are names that can be applied to one of your social selves…  It is your image in the eyes of your own set, which exalts or condemns as you conform or not to certain requirements that may not be made of one in another walk of life…

The Spiritual Me

By the ‘spiritual me’, I mean no one in particular of my passing states of consciousness. I mean rather the entire collection of my states of consciousness, my psychic faculties… This collection can at any moment become an object to my thought…  When we think of ourselves as thinkers, all the other ingredients of our me seem relatively external possessions… The more active-feeling states of consciousness are the central portions of the spiritual life.  The very core and nucleus of our self, as we know it, the very sanctuary of our life, is the sense of activity which certain inner states possess. This sense of activity is often held to be a direct revelation of the living substance of our Soul… I wish now only to lay down the peculiar internality of whatever states possess this quality of seeming to be active. It is as if they went out to meet all the other elements of our experience.

Inert Ideas

Now all this remains an inert idea unless you take steps to figure out what it might mean to you. An ‘inert idea’ is ANWhitehead’s concept described in his The Aims of Education; it is an idea that is ‘merely received into the mind without being utilised, or tested, or thrown into fresh combinations…’ ANWhitehead’s concept in itself remained an ‘inert idea’ for me until, in his own terms, I made it my own possession—made it into a working hypothesis about how to make an idea or a bit of thinking into something that makes an impact or works in a context. When you make an idea your own you start figuring out how it can be used; you learn to verify it pragmatically.

There’s a simplistic, person-in-the-street view that ‘Truth’ must somehow be an accurate copy of what is without dispute the case; ideas must correspond with what they are concerned with. William James’ pragmatism combines a correspondence theory of truth with the far more subtle coherence theory of truth. In the verifying process, we can ask how do thoughts and statements correspond with the way things are, but we can also ask how do things ‘hang together’, cohere, or fit as pieces of a puzzle might fit together; a careful synthesis of both methodologies is then verified by feedback, by the observed results of the application of an idea to actual practice

This also fits what I call Gurdjieff’s KUB model.

It works like this: lots of Knowledge, not much working it into your Being = little in the way of Understanding; high-class Being (saint, President or Pope), not much Knowledge = little in the way of Understanding; much Knowledge deeply related to Being and relying on systemic feedback for its development = a great deal in the way of Understanding.

Keats again: ‘…axioms in philosophy are not axioms until they are proved upon our pulses. We read fine things but never feel them to the full until we have gone the same steps as the author… I compare human life to a large Mansion of Many Apartments, two of which only I can describe; the doors of the rest being as yet shut upon me…’ (Letter 64)

The more one finds support for practice the more certain one becomes of being on the right track. You have a hunch that x is the case; you find that others have spent a good deal of time researching what you have started to accept. This adds power & scope to what you have come to believe.

One word for Knowledge

There’s the same old problem with the words we have at our disposal…

We have one word for ‘knowledge’ and it comes about therefore that without thinking about it we presuppose that all knowledge is of a piece. It isn’t.

Knowledge is systemic; in fact there’s probably no such thing as the noun ‘Knowledge’— there are simply acts of knowing. Each stage in the system adds something to the original mere registering phase; subsequent circuits are informed by the first registration and so a sense impression on the second and third and fourth time becomes vivified into a different kind of experience. As JGBennett suggests coming to terms with ideas is a matter of gradual approximation to the way things really are; the more we keep going the closer we get to Being-congruence with things as they really are.

Conversion of the system of Knowledge into I-terms makes the point that it’s not Knowledge that changes; it’s the ‘I’ that we choose to be in when looking at the nature of experience that changes things.

The acquisition of the things we think we know is a systemic process; everything being connected there is a constant ‘reciprocal feeding’ and ‘world maintenance’ through the ‘universal exchange of substances’. We have no word for this process so Gurdjieff (who may be described as the first systems thinker) calls it iraniranumange. A systemic process goes round and round making a richer picture on each circuit. And there are systems within systems… There are emergent properties which become part of the process.

All systems have ‘Emergent Properties’ (‘EP’ in this diagram)—systems have dynamic properties.

Ideally this system should be painted on a large playground where it could be danced around with a chosen sense-impression in mind. In that way the process would be ‘vivified’ throughout the whole of your Being, thought, felt and moved through. Registering-I, Ordering-I, Making-information-I, Remembering-I, Having-an-intention-I, Attending-I, Reflecting-I, Taking-action-I… And so on…

The Concept of I-tags

Mainstream psychologist, Brian Lancaster (Mind, Brain & Human Consciousness) provides the useful neologism, ‘I-tag’, for the way we attach I-ness to each particle of remembering—I-tags are tickets to dangle on all the millions of bits of experience, momentary trances, in which you can identify ‘I-ness’ when you set your mind to it. All the little bits of experience that we’ve had come back to us complete with a sensation of I-ness: I-by-the-seaside, I-swotting-for-exams, I-buying-a-first-house, I-in-a-whole-series-of-relationships-some-more-special-than-others.

…memory images, or [memory patternings] , come complete with their ‘I-tags’. These are the basic data from which our sense of identity is constructed. In any given moment, a number of such ‘I-tags’ are presumably activated as sensory systems interact with memory… Thus I may be holding a pen which triggers one ‘I-tag’, sitting by a familiar plant, another ‘I-tag’, listening to a favourite piece of music, a third ‘I-tag’—and so on. Each ‘I-tag’ embodies my past identity state when the given entity was experienced previously. We can envisage these many ‘I-tags , as constituting a plane of the mind, which I shall call the identity plane. I use the term ‘plane’ here in a metaphorical sense only. The mind cannot be described literally in geometrical terms since it has no literal spatial attributes. Neither is the identity plane to be construed as tied to a particular plane or level within the brain. It is merely a convenient label for the sense of identity as it is generated through the processes I have discussed.
Now it is quite clear that we do not experience ourselves as being fragmented in the way that the foregoing discussion might imply. Our sense of identity is that of a single, unified and continuous ‘I’ [which is] something of an illusion… The unified ‘I’ is an entity constructed from the fragmented identity plane to make retrospective sense of mental events…

The identity plane comprises an endless flux of ‘I-tags’ from which ‘I’ is continually constructed. Furthermore, the current ‘I’ in any given moment becomes the ‘I-tag’ attached to new memories of the present scene. Again, the point is that ‘I’ never remains the same. This is a highly dynamic process whereby ‘I-tags’ are continually being drawn from memory, and, as the present scene itself enters memory, updated in memory…

Of course, ‘I’ is generated by internal inputs as well as external ones. In other words, ‘I’ think as well as perceive. Thinking is not so very different from perceiving… Both involve logical deductions on the basis of given data. In the terms employed here, thinking is the psychological process of activating memory images and manipulating them one to another. Perception involves exactly the same process but takes place in relation to sensory data.

If we follow the argument further, it is not actually the case that ‘I’ think. Rather, each memory image that is activated during thought contributes its ‘I-tag’ to the ongoing construction of ‘I’. ‘I’ is actually a product of thought, not the master of it. Interestingly enough, it further follows that if thinking were genuinely to create new connections and forms, there would necessarily be an attenuation of ‘I’. ‘I-tags’ embody my connection to past images, but a new image has no ‘I-tag’. Therefore, for the time that a new image engages the mind, there can be no ‘I’. This is indeed the case in true creativity. As reported by those who have attempted to reflect on their own creativity, the creative moments seem to come in some twilight zone of preconsciousness…  this point is best left to the artists themselves. In answering a question concerning the creativity in her own poetry, [the American poet] Amy Lowell writes

…my own poems… I know as little of how they are made as I do of anyone else’s.   What I do know about them is only a millionth part of what there must be to know. I meet them where they touch consciousness, and that is already a considerable distance along the road of evolution.

It may be argued that this moment of creative inspiration is the only time when we truly exist in the present, when we are not simply rehashing the past. In other words, whenever ‘I’ am, past associations are necessarily cloud-ing the present moment. Of course, as soon as the poet reflects upon the primary intuition, ‘I’ is reconstituted and can begin to work on forming the poem.

[We are left wondering if] it is possible to transcend the identity plane, which will engender a new psychological state (an ‘altered state of consciousness’). [Arguably] the moment of creativity is just such a moment of transcendence. Generally speaking, it is the fragmentation of the identity plane which constitutes the major block to realization of our highest potential, as in creativity. On account of the identity plane being an amalgam of ‘I-tags’, it is essentially conservative; it always seeks to relate to the present in terms of past identities. Memory is indeed the master here and consequently, whenever ‘I’ am, I am actually in the past. Transcendence of the identity plane is achieved through awareness of the present moment, and that means awareness of becoming.

[You might very well] object that this model seems divorced from experience. We experience ourselves as a single self, continuous and whole, and memory is our servant, not a master. However, we must be careful to distinguish the personality characteristics of ‘I’ from the feeling of ‘I’. We do have an enduring feeling of selfhood… That is not in question. But the substance of ‘I’ is open to doubt.

[You might]  like to consider this point [by means] of an experiential exercise. Consider the nature of your ‘self. As you attempt to specify its nature, you will, no doubt, bring various aspects to mind. The exercise is one of detaching from each of these aspects in turn. What remains as you strip them away? Is there some core you can experience beyond the various aspects you have specified? You may consider relationships, for example. Thus you probably define yourself in part as so-and-so’s son, brother, sister, wife, husband and so on. Is it possible to be yourself irrespective of those relationships? What about career, status, possessions and so on? More fundamentally, what about dispositions and personal skills? Can you be the same ‘I’ [temporarily] stripped of those qualities of which you are proud…?

This is an exercise in imagination, but that does not make it any less important in psychological terms. The aim of the exercise is really that of a meditative contemplation of self. Indeed, experience of meditation is probably necessary for the reader to gain the insight into self at issue here.

It is possible to strip away all the aspects (and more) mentioned above. Eventually you will be left with the feeling of ‘I’. Not this or that aspect, just a feeling which cannot be put into words. And then… awareness. Simple Being.

Two Things in Relation to MULTIPLICITY

First, there is the issue of control

Although Unified-I has the impression that it is in control… this is often not the case. Actions are planned and executed from outside of ‘I’, but nevertheless there is an ‘I’ that deems itself in control; it interprets events accordingly and thereby furthers its raison d’etre.

Second, on the subject of consciousness

 …the identity plane is one plane of mind which accounts for the unified nature of our experience of self, the stream  of  consciousness.  However,  this  plane  is  constellated as a shifting amalgam of ‘I-tags’  and, therefore, its contents are not unified and are only a sub-set of mental activity ongoing at any one time. It is ‘I’ that is multiple and partial, not consciousness or Being.

The identity plane is conceived of as a shifting array of ‘I-tags’, each of which embodies one’s past personal connection to present impressions. From these, the sense of a single ‘I’ is generated through the work of the interpreter-I. Present impressions (which include feelings as well as sensations and thoughts) are interpreted as emanating from a single locus of control— ‘I’. Although this ‘I’ is constructed anew each moment, the impetus of the interpreter is necessarily towards continuity. That is to say, the raison d’etre of the interpreter is to generate consistent explanations of events and, complementarily, a consistent focus for those explanations —’I’. Therefore the interpreter generates a bridge between successive constructions of ‘I’. The explanations of the interpreter are set in terms of the laws of causation, which bring about the experience of time as we know it and the experience of the ‘stream of consciousness’.
We may assume that ‘I-tags’ themselves are constellated into groupings, giving rise to what have been called ‘subpersonalities’. Thus, although ‘I’ is constructed anew each moment, it tends to fall back on familiar ground by embodying one or another predominant image we have of ourselves. Rowan defines a subpersonality as ‘a semi-permanent and semi-autonomous region of the personality capable of acting as a person’, and suggests that an average person displays between four and nine such subpersonalities.

We may become aware of the multiplicity of ‘I’s through the internal dialogue by which they communicate and by means of which they are maintained. Thus, in general, we may find that the inner commentary that seems to be with us most of the time can be related to different characters, one perhaps a parental authority figure, one a hedonist, another a priestly figure and so on. Each delivers its lines to one of its colleagues in an attempt to assert its will. It can be useful to get to know these foci of inner dialogue in order to achieve greater integration of self…

Many Modes of Verification

Verification by repetition, by accumulating evidence to support a point of view, by feeling things on the pulse. This obviously does not ensure the ultimate validity of whatever it might be but it provides an added imperative to figuring out why so many people in so many different contexts have come to the conclusion they have come to.

Even so, a good question to ask is ‘What if x were true?’ What would be the practical consequences? One might choose to believe x and notice carefully what happens as a consequence of adopting the belief. It is always safe enough to put x in brackets and work with it for the time being. If it works out in practice then you can make other decisions (based on the noting of feedback) to fit into your general sense of reality.

This process may seem arduous and long-winded especially when one takes seriously the need to check it out from one’s whole Being: asking how does it fit my intellectual system, does it feel right, how does it work out in practice?— this could go on for many moons. This fits Gurdjieff’s injunction to engage in Being-partdolgduty—all Centres, all parts of the brain working together so that whatever one looks at becomes self-verifying through Conscious labour and intentional suffering… maybe over a period of many years.

How Would You Deal with This?

What is the practical application of the concept of Multiple-I’s? A simple Case Study may help verification.

I spent an afternoon with a man who was out on the very edge of things. He had been very good at his job as a top executive in a local council organisation but was choosing to find his work role very stressful as a result of being overlooked for promotion and finding himself with a newly appointed female boss for whom he was developing a deep resentment. He was stuck in a vicious circle of a system:-

This was more or less how the ‘problem’ presented itself to me; this character was stuck in a system, a vicious circle that as things were he found it impossible to break out of.

First thing I noted was that the whole thing had been tipped into an abstraction: it seemed like he was stuck in the glutinous jelly of a word that carried no real meaning—as long as he considered himself to be harbouring ‘resentment’ nothing would happen, no progress would be possible.

I got him to experience for me how good he was at his job; I had him step into Being-good-at-my-job-I and figure out all the ‘I’s that could be associated with that—all the specific bits of behaviour (or ‘I’s) that had resulted in his being respected for what he did in an executive kind of way—Developing-projects-I, Coaching-colleagues-I, Getting-things-done-on-time-I, Relating-to-outside-bodies-I.

Then I got him to step into Feeling-resentful-at-the-new-woman-boss-I. It turned out that it was not just that she was a woman but that she also lived in a Big House and owned a horse which she rode about the estate—Feeling-resentful-about-specific-indications-of-success-I.

To cut the story of the long afternoon short, it turned out that Resenting-I, Being-resentful-I, had been part of this man’s repertoire for many years. The only time when he had not been in Feeling-resentful-I was when he was at college twenty years before. There, during our exploration, he discovered a Being-open-to-experience-I, Having-life-stretched-out-in-front-of-him-I. Even in his apparently successful marriage, he slipped into Feeling-resentful-I when he thought about how his wife & children got in the way of what he really wanted to do.

Cataloguing his ‘I’s as we went, laying them out on the floor recorded on bits of paper, we arrived back in infant school and it turned out that this was where, quite without his realising it, it had all started.

He had been very ill during his second year at school and his female teacher had decided that he should be held back for a year. This he deeply resented and attributed bloody-minded malice to the teacher. This generalised into Believing-that-all-women-have-it-in-for-me-I, a part of him that in some way blighted things for him for many years.

I talked to him about the idea that all human behaviour has some kind of positive intention behind it which he eventually accepted. “So what was the positive intention behind your infant teacher’s decision to hold you back for a year?”

I observed some kind of light dawning in his face. “She wanted me to have a good educational experience rather than one with a bit missing…”

“So what about the ‘resentment’?”

“Why on earth would I feel that? She was rooting for me…”

Leaving Feeling-resentful-I behind in that ancient classroom, we revisited all the experiences we had discussed; he felt reinvigorated about his college career and could understand how he might redefine his attitude towards his marriage and thought that he could now talk about issues with his new boss.

But his concluding remarks revealed a much larger unfulfilled desire: what he really wanted to do was to leave everything and go off round the world on his own! Globe-trotting-I.

I do not know how things turned out—I never saw him again!

This is how we turned a vicious circle into a virtuous one:-

Verification and the Enneagram

The Enneagram is a system of systems on which anything may be plotted so that it comes to make sense by approximating to ‘the Truth’.

Again, this diagram should be painted somewhere else on a large playground and danced around so that it comes alive for the dancer who might start off at 9 having some pet idea in mind—something that makes a whole for them. ‘The existence of god’, would do’; ‘the non-existence of god’ would do equally well; ‘my job is the most important thing in the world’; ‘I can’t wait for retirement’—some belief or thought that feels like a whole item. At 9 ask yourself what your pet idea does for you, what it looks like, feels like, sounds like, tastes like.

Dancing round the perimeter of the Enneagram will take you through another eight stopping points:-

1.    Here you take the opposite point of view with all the opposite attributes (whatever comes up)
2.    Here notice that you can take 9 and 1 and swing on a pendulum between them until you come to a point of synthesis or reconciliation—you may need to pause here with Pachelbel’s Canon playing in the background…
3.    Whatever temporary conclusion you come to, you need to know that everything there is in the universe goes on in spite of your parochial thoughts; your place is insubstantial
4.    But sub specie aeternitatis there are endless possibilities to be explored—the potential is endless…
5.    By setting your Being in such a context you can begin to notice connections hitherto undreamed of
6.    The deliberate making of connections will lead you to notice the way things repeat themselves down the ages and across space
7.    Patterns will emerge
8.    You will become able to build these into new structures of ideas which will create a new whole

Dancing along the lines of the dynamism inside the Enneagram will help to develop even more possibilities: from 1 to 7 will help you to perceive patterns in the polarities of your life; from 7 to 5 will get you to notice the creative possibilities in those patterns which will make new structures at 8′ at 2 a new sense of Third Force (reconciling) will begin to emerge offering new potential for development at 4. Round the basic triangle 9 – 3 – 6 the persistence of the Whole will be seen in repetition; you will take a step up in the levels of Wholes.

The dancing can, of course, be done in the head but physical movement around the system can help to engage all Centres.

A complex book like JGBennett’s Dramatic Universe demands verification—it cries out to be verified as does Beelzebub’s Tales to His Grandson. Staying the course is about going the whole hog without bothering about the postage. This dancing party is based on my limited grapple with Volume One of the Dramatic Universe which seems to place verification in a much larger context than it’s ordinarily provided with.

15 thoughts on “Verify, Verify, Verify! Believe Nothing You Cannot Verify for Yourself (R10)

  1. Dear Collin,
    Provocative and in places profound, it just might come off as a bit wordy. Do you think in words? Or by ‘form’? Curious “I” wants to ascertain. A bit of my own wish for understanding.


    1. Dear Richard

      Thanks for the question! By ‘wordy’ I take it you mean too many words…

      I pre-suppose that mentation by form is thinking in pattern, metaphor, image system, picturing some inner content.

      Whereas thinking in words implies some kind of stretched out linear process that tends to lose the thread of what’s being said.

      I think words are very slippery customers: they give the impression that they represent something of certain status – they reify what’s fluid. Words corrupt meaning.

      But patterns, metaphors, images etc get expressed in words. Beelzebub is a thousand pages of words expressing many metaphors.

      I think I start with a feeling for a concept; I fiddle around with some words to warm up; then if things are going right I get to a system of some kind – the metaphor of a circle that appears so often in what I write. That tends to do without words except for the stopping points. Literally walking the circuit is my practice.

      The other pattern/metaphor I work with in the attempt to approximate to some kind of truth is collage – metaphor I get from my musical composition or ‘works of art’.

      Feeling about an idea comes first – form evolves and gets expressed in words which, I hope, always follow the principle of ‘artful vagueness’.



      1. Collin, Let me explain my own thinking process, and then you may have a better understanding of thinking by association and thinking by form. I actually think in metaphor and allegory, and then have to translate those into words, which are a skimming along the surface of the deeper thoughts. When we are infants we think by form; that is, we think without language. Then as we grow we are taught words, which are as symbols of things or feelings or sensation or what have you. At first, each word only has one meaning, but as we grow and find the natural limit of language we build an associative “Rolodex” for each word. This complicates things immensely.

        As we learn that the serial surface language is the “linga franka” of this world, most tend to allow thinking harmoniously by form atrophy. Then we become as ordinary man, thinking by linguistic association.

        I remember from my infancy, and I remember thinking in form, metaphorically, and I also remember being perhaps 5 or 6 months old and being quite surprised to the point of talking inwardly to myself the following question: “How come I know most of the language I am hearing, and the words I don’t know I can infer from context.” That’s really what I remember, and it led to a decision within myself that I would not allow my “first thinking”, which is my term for thinking by metaphor, which are like chords in music. Many notes at once.

        When Gurdjieff spoke of these two manner of thinking, he described the processes so that I knew instantly what he meant. I learned language (English) and read dictionaries as well as encyclopedias as real books when I was prepubescent, because I needed a surplus of words to state the translation in serial language those thoughts that came to me by form.

        This is exactly what happened with Einstein – first came thought experiments – then articulation and the math, and then the formulas. And his thinking by form was so strong that he could not master speaking in language until he was perhaps 5 years old. He simply couldn’t squeeze his chordal thinking through the tiny hole of serial language, and they thought he was a dullard or perhaps retarded, which he was if you speak literately about his practicing his sentences under his breath until the full sentence became stable.

        So I loved your concepts in that blog, but I saw thinking by association leading you (in my own discrimination, and thought it might be a good start to a dialogue or exchange with you.

        The fall of the tower of babel didn’t mean that suddenly there came chinese and french and arabic and english. No, these are large groupings of word structures and meanings, but the fall represents the fact that every person develops their own lexicon of synonyms and word associative structures. This means that there are currently 7 billion different languages being spoken by humanity, due to the embellishment of words and word structures into associative meaning clusters. In ordinary people, thinking by form then atrophies, leaving us locked in our own little prison of verbiage and diminished understanding due to social conditioning,

        This is also why hypnosis works in reducing (actually reducing and then expansion) words to metaphoric structures which once changed, change everything that rests on top of these word routes in the brain. One of the main points g made was the need to redress this discrepancy and re-establish thinking by form, which forms are the language of the subconscious and of the horse in the equipage.

        Hope you can find time to comment back – we share a great deal of understanding between us, and I know for myself I wish to move towards the inner circle of conscious humanity. To my mind this doesn’t mean that there is one place where they all congregate, but spread out over the earth are those who understand each other more and more.

        Yours in the Work,


  2. Richard: you say ‘I actually think in metaphor and allegory, and then have to translate those into words, which are a skimming along the surface of the deeper thoughts…’ As somebody who would never claim to think exclusively thus I need to think of some way to get what this might mean. I think I understand the idea of words that skim along the surface of the deeper thoughts but does this happen all the time for you? And are the thoughts ‘deeper’ or just tangential?

    For instance, I’m really curious to understand the metaphor/allegory that came to you first before you put it into linear-speak in order to communicate the foregoing to me!

    It’s certainly the case that babies start off without language as we understand it; they exist in an undifferentiated something or other that we might call a ‘universe’ or ‘unity’—a place they happen to find themselves in without a ‘by your leave’. Out of that early time I can dredge up quite a large number of patterns, image systems, metaphors that have worked their way into my mode of thinking nowadays. But I could by no means assert that I think in metaphors.

    I certainly feel ideas, feel the shape or sense of a passage of thinking before I begin to put it into words. The shape or sense of an idea occurs, then words begin to arise, they modify the picture I first saw/felt which gives rise to a modification of the shape or sense of things—a constant systemic process. This I feel most profoundly; it’s the shape of my Being.

    In fact, the shape of this response occurred to me in dreamland last night. I had gone to bed with no idea of what I might reply to you that would be at all useful to a dialogue.

    It took many years for me to understand why I couldn’t just accumulate words in a long piece of writing; the stream always dried up more or less at source. Then, with a work colleague, I wrote an epistolatory lengthy novel which I’m still quite proud of which was essentially felt in construction—we didn’t even declare anything about our characters; their qualities just emerged from the letters/chapters. Writing thus by form (as I now understand it) also indicated that a major factor in my thinking was to think of it/feel it/see it/hear it as a collage of (at the outset) discrete bits & pieces.

    Musical composition has been something I’ve developed for myself over the last fifty years. Again it’s part of my Being—the sounding together of instruments and voices with no need for words. My great musical metaphor here is from Walt Whitman:-

    I think a thought of the clef of the universes, and of the future.
    A vast similitude interlocks all,
    All spheres, grown, ungrown, small, large, suns, moons, planets, comets, asteroids,
    All the substances of the same, and all that is spiritual upon the same,
    All distances of place, however wide,
    All distances of time—all inanimate forms,
    All Souls—all living bodies, though they be ever so different, or in different worlds,
    All gaseous, watery, vegetable, mineral processes—the fishes, the brutes,
    All men and women—me also;
    All nations, colors, barbarisms, civilizations, languages;
    All identities that have existed, or may exist, on this globe, or any globe;
    All lives and deaths—all of the past, present, future;
    This vast similitude spans them, and always has spann’d, and shall forever span them, and compactly hold them, and enclose them.

    As I understand it G is saying that the two forms of mentation are taking place concurrently: there are words as empty sounds occurring mechanically in everyday waking consciousness; and then there are the previously fixed ‘associative confrontations’ coming out of what I choose to call the other-than-conscious mind which cohere in the active reflection of ‘real consciousness’—result of self-remembering and the reception of the food of Pure Impressions.

    This works for me: there’s the barbarbarbarbar of the general endless clatter of words (as now) and then there’s something far more subtle that underpins or works at a different level. I choose to call whatever it is ‘the other-than-conscious mind’ in order to avoid all the baggage associated with the ‘subconscious’ or the ‘unconscious’; the simple equation ‘conscious’ v ‘other-than-conscious’ gets round all that, avoids the associative encumbrances deriving from Jung/Freud/and so on.

    To give some indication of where I’m coming from I’ll take an example that’s in my immediate concern.

    One of my many ‘I’s is ‘Coach-for-aspiring-haiku-writers-I’. This is a leftover from last year when I packed up being in Editor-of-the-journal-of-the-British-Haiku-Society-I.

    To clear the decks: for me, haiku is a possible result of mentation by form and, ideally, a capturing of the Food of Pure Impressions.

    Yesterday I received a batch of hopeful haiku which included

    Fog’s eerie silence
    Holds white-blanketed village
    To breathless ransom

    In terms of mentation by thought/words and mentation by form what can I say about this that will not demolish the writer? This is what I can say here:-

    ‘Fog’s eerie silence’—fog is fog and doesn’t possess anything; an ‘eerie silence’ is a conventional cliché which doesn’t interest me at all because I’ve heard it all before—‘associative Rolodex’, playing old tunes…

    ‘Poetry is the renovation of experience’ said William Carlos Williams.

    Fog is not a sentient being and so cannot ‘hold’ anything, let alone a ‘white-blanketed village’ whatever that might be—snow-white or fog-white? It certainly can’t hold anything to ransom—more associative Rolodexing, breathless (hypallage) or otherwise.

    To use the word you taught me, this haiku has ‘requirements’: its construction & tropes require you to go off in all directions, searching your memory banks for meanings. A haiku should not require the reader to engage in twists & turns.

    I shall simply have to put myself in a foggy village street and re-write the haiku thus:-

    in silence

    This gives me the Food of Pure Impressions before all the associative buzz or ratiocination sets in. Though it has to be said that the purity of the impressions has already been sullied by words. A haiku should simply point out a non-dual reality and leave everything else to the reader: if readers want to build on these four words they can supply eeriness, whiteness, breathlessness, being held to ransom against one’s wishes for themselves.

    This whole process stands, just at this moment in time (it might be a different example next time), as a metaphor or anchor for my sense of the difference between mentation by thought/words and by form. My earnest haiku-writing correspondent is prisoner of mentation by thought; to write haiku she must escape that particular prison and take up a position elsewhere.


    I’ve developed the Figure of Eight (see metaphor into an exercise which has interesting upshots.

    Walking round the bottom of the Figure of Eight which represents the other-than-conscious mind, one can discover the sources of potent metaphors in pre-verbal terms.

    Thus ‘crawling up a grassy bank out of a hole’ (from 2-ish), ‘light patterns in the form of a dancing cross in darkness’ (eve of 3rd birthday developing measles!), ‘garden containments’ (starting with my father’s garden—birth onwards), ‘India’ (distant abstract something or other where my father went off to fight somebody—age 4) and so on.

    What significance did these patterns (and many others) or ‘somatic markers’ have in my waking consciousness?

    Taking each of these patternings up into the top half of the Figure of Eight I find I can verbalise them into continuing significance in all kinds of ways. ‘Getting out of a hole by crawling…’ = the holes I’ve been in in Real Life; the ‘dancing cross’ figure has provided a structure for many paintings; all my life I’ve had the desire to replicate the containment represented by my father’s garden = container for the soul; ‘India’ = absence, the ideal state far away beyond comprehension… And so on. These are just the shortest of short-hand explanations.

    I feel another Glob coming on…

    Best Wishes



    1. PS Something I wrote a long time ago… It was just lying around in the guts of my computer…


      Near to the beginning of Beelzebub’s Tales our author makes reference to two kinds of mentation: by thought and by form. The point he makes is suitably tangled in order to make us ponder. So I’m doing just that.

      The distinction between mentation by thought and mentation by form makes me think immediately of the two kinds of mental activity promoted by Left Brain and Right Brain (with due regard for those few who are wired in the opposite direction). In general the Left Brain typically resorts to words and logic and order (so it thinks) while the Right Brain functions most comfortably with shape and rhythm and pictures and metaphors—various kinds of ‘form’.

      Though their meaning is always relative, as Mr G points out, words give the illusion of precision; a sort of respect (often in the form of a Gold Star) is given to those who can string words together so that they appear to make sense. On the other hand, what the Right Brain produces, since what TSEliot refers to as the ‘dissociation of sensibility’ (around 1660), is somewhat suspect; it is airy-fairy poetical, to be given a wide berth by those who imagine they want precision.

      But Mr G suggests that ‘word’ is ‘outer subjective expression’; words produce ‘different inner content’—their precision is not to be relied on.

      All words are metaphors in the literal sense of the word ‘metaphor’: words always ‘go beyond’ things in the world out there; words are not what they are cracked up to be; they are solely part of our mental world and bear only a roughly conventional relationship to what they are supposed to refer to. This is what I think Mr G is driving at.

      He resorts to the more reliable pictures & metaphors to make his points. This, as he describes in The Herald of the Coming Good, is where he started out on his writing—by depicting little dramatic ‘scenarios’, metaphors, to explain his ideas: ‘The Three Brothers’, for example, to explain the Law of Three. That he had to use words to do so is unfortunate.

      How many metaphors does he present us with? The Ray of Creation, the Octave, Karnak, Horse & Carriage, the Enneagram, Essence, to mention just a few. Following on, his disciple Maurice Nicoll brilliantly makes much of the metaphor of the Pendulum to depict the Law of Three.

      As I understand it, the task is to make these potent metaphors come alive in our Being. How do we do that?


  3. Hi Colin,
    As I was reading through this post, and once again pondering my own multiple-I’s, it occurred to me that one of the places I’m most strongly confronted by them is, oddly enough, when I sit in meditation. Most of the teachers I have worked with during my practice insist that this is the point of sitting – to observe the constant rise-and-fall of thoughts and emotions (each a different “I”, if I’ve been understanding your illustrations of our multiple-I’s over many of your past blog posts), and to cultivate an attitude of non-attachment toward them. So I’m wondering if sitting meditation, or any other mindfulness practice, might afford us a brief glimmer of being in the state that Buddhism calls “no-self” – liberated, even if for just a second or so, from the many selves of our multiple-I’s. What do you think?


    1. I think that your distillation of the haiku has been a great help to you in seeing for yourself what thinking by form would indicate: fog, village, silence.

      These alone each are potent metaphors. Of course words are symbols for other “things”. I mostly simply think in the opposite direction. If you were to make a study of my thousands of posts you might get the idea from as it were, between the words, or with “grouping” of words I attempt to “paint the picture” which came before the words came. Of course there is an overlap, but in my general thinking I find harmonic forms before any words come to exist.

      You asked what picture came up when I first responded to your post and the image of a crowd came to mind, which translated to me of “Too many words” which for me held the image of a theater intermission, when everybody goes to the lobby and have many conversations all at once. This became the image that resulted in the phrase “too many words”

      Of course, the image came as the result of trying to follow your post carefully, and noticing fault lines in it where the words showed discontinuity, like the overall post had been hit with an earthquake that shifted the fault lines where some bits of phrases collided with other bits or chards of writing. can you spot the many metaphoric images I have used in responding to your request?

      Yours in the work,
      P.S. I know that you are quite versed in NLP, as I am, and when you describe your sense of thinking be form you use an emotive word: feeling, but at other times you use vision as your tool. This tells me a great deal about your own inner make-up and design. Do you see?


      1. Dear Richard

        Knowing that you were famiiar with NLP I deliberately fed in the clues to the way I think – KVA. 🙂 Your earthquake/theatre metaphors might be another way of seeing my own collage metaphor which can work well by deliberate disjunction.



    2. Hi Tom

      Exactly so, I think! It seems to me to be a systemic process: go with/through the Multiple-I’s and come out the other side somehow!

      I have a litany:-

      [I got the idea of it from a Covey video in which a character says ‘I have cancer but ‘I’ am not my cancer…’ This was a great help to me when I was in that situation – in fact it got me through it successfully…]

      …but ‘I’ am not the litany…
      I have pain but ‘I’ am not the pain…
      I have thoughts but ‘I’ am not the thoughts…
      I have attitudes but ‘I’ am not the attitudes…
      I have feelings but ‘I’ am not the feelings…
      I have enthusiasms but ‘I’ am not the enthusiasms…

      The litany could be a mile long and one could ask finally: “So what am ‘I’ then? What ‘I’ is able to make these observations?

      It’s possible that it’s Transcendental-I or Oceanic-I or No-I (No-self) – I don’t know what to call it – it escapes words!



  4. Hi Colin,
    You’ve gotten some good replies for this post, substantial replies. I’m already familiar with your thoughts, style, and e.g. background in NLP, and so on; and I suppose that others, who understand it, will adapt the enneagram to their own subjects, topics, methods, etc., but I still ought to mention, that G. and his first generation students, would all surely saw that you had ‘wiseacred’ the enneagram there, and would challenge you that you didn’t really understand it. That is, I’m not saying that, but I think that the Foundations here in the U.S. would say that. I want to thank you for your work and time. They say that it is easy to give of your possessions to people, such as money, objects, etc., but that giving of yourself to others is much more valuable, and less often does that happen. Well, I’m making our Lists available for you and everyone as well, on my blogs; and I know that you have already looked over the most recent one, that is, the section Enneagram Studies on their, and given your comment; but it’s been updated recently, so you could look again if you wanted to.


    1. Thanks Jone…

      I extracted myself from WITW inter alia because it really bored me that people kept telling me about my misunderstanding of the Enneagram. I am not easily bored – in fact the word is not really part of my vocabulary. Were I back there now I might say listen to what you say about another person’s ‘wiseacring’ and realise that it’s a mirror of your self! Then I might quote Covey’s 5th Habit to them: ‘Seek first to understand before trying to pronounce what you think!’

      But then I won’t be going back there!

      And then more seriously I’d put this up from ISOTM Chapter 14:-

      ‘Speaking in general it must be understood that the enneagram is a universal symbol. ALL KNOWLEDGE can be included in the enneagram and with the help of the enneagram it can be interpreted. And in this connection only what a man is able to put into the enneagram does he actually know, that is, understand. What he cannot put into the enneagram he does not understand. For the man who is able to make use of it, the enneagram makes books and libraries entirely unnecessary. Everything can be included and read in the enneagram. A man may be quite alone in the desert and he can trace the enneagram in the sand and in it read the eternal laws of the universe. And every time he can learn something new, something he did not know before…

      The enneagram is the fundamental hieroglyph of a universal language which has as many different meanings as there are levels of men. The enneagram is perpetual motion, the same perpetual motion that men have sought since the remotest antiquity and could never find. And
      it is clear why they could not find perpetual motion. They sought outside themselves that which was within them; and they attempted to construct perpetual motion as a machine is constructed, whereas real perpetual motion is a part of another perpetual motion and cannot be created apart from it. The enneagram is a schematic diagram of perpetual motion, that
      is, of a machine of eternal movement. But of course it is necessary to know how to read this diagram. The understanding of this symbol and the ability to make use of it give man very great power. It is perpetual motion and it is also the philosopher’s stone of the alchemists.

      In order to understand the enneagram it must be thought of as in motion, as moving. A motionless enneagram is a dead symbol; … on the floor of the hall where the exercises took place a large enneagram was drawn and the pupils who took part in the exercises stood on
      the spots marked by the numbers 1 to 9. Then they began to move in the direction of the numbers of the period in a very interesting movement… It is possible to understand the enneagram by movement…’


      1. Dear Colin,

        Yesterday I had written you a lengthy comment via my speech recognition software and when I tried to transfer it somehow it got lost. I can tell you because I still check on WITW on pretty much a daily basis that the site has dried up, and posts are only coming from a handful of people. Although I have posted there since 2008, I think the site has run its course.

        With regard to The Enneagram, I should share a bit of my own experience and material which may explain my high regard for not just the symbol but for the movements that are taught at the Gurdjieff Foundations. They are not simply taught as people walking the inner circulation – which is one way it is used, but more often there will be seven rows of people who move forwards and backwards and exchange positions according to the Canon of 142875, from right to left according to the view of the participant, and left to right according to the perception of the instructor.

        First there are preliminary movements – separate movements for the arms and legs and head sometimes accompanied by auditory pronouncements or by twirling clockwise on specific numbers. Then the class begins moving forwards and backwards in a certain rhythm which is accompanied by an improvised pianist.

        After focusing this group of movements (arms legs and head and vocalization and twirling), the Canon begins which means that the rows must exchange places during the movements forwards and backwards. After 142875 comes 287514, so that the rows of 2875 move to the left while 14 moves all the way from the left to the right. There is a brief interval usually consisting of 2 to 4 steps of stasis at the front where each of the rows now signify 287514, and on the way back they revert to 142857, and always revert to 142857 on the way backwards.

        Then comes 428571, and in moving forward only the row #1 moves all the way to the right and all the other numbers move slightly to the left. This continues through all of the Canon, the next being 571428, and then 714285 followed by 857142.

        As you might imagine this is quite complicated, especially accompanied by all of the various movements of the limbs and head and the twirling which usually occurs on the third number going forwards and backwards while exchanging positions of the rows. I had been pondering this inner circulation while engaged in these exercises or movements as they are called. At the same time I was pondering musical theory because one of my activities is teaching the guitar and musical theory it a very different way than anyone who goes to conservatory or regular school would find.

        One day during the movements of a very complicated form of what they call the multiplications (the term for what I described above), during the short static laws of no more than two seconds when I was in the front of a row I had an epiphany which turned my understanding of the Enneagram and of musical theory into one experiential understanding. That moment clarified and answered all of my questions about the relationship between the Enneagram and what is normally called the Cycle of Fifths/Fourths, because the Enneagram is essentially musical, being a combination of the laws of three and of seven, and if you plot the devil’s interval which in music is called the tritone and is the augmented fourth or flatted fifth – three equal whole steps from the one or its octave, and you use the outer circle of the Enneagram and draw a plumb line from nine it will fall directly between four and five, yielding the same spiritual block that results in people, instead of going Do Re Mi Fa Sol La Si Do, they end up going Do Re Mi. Do Re Mi, Do Re Mi and never reach the left-hand side of the Enneagram, where the Enneagram can be folded in half vertically and the right hand stands for the conscious mind whereas the left-hand side forms to the subconscious and superconscious mind.

        Unfortunately I have to go to meet with an appointment, but I hope we can continue this dialogue to our mutual benefit.

        Yours truly in the work,
        Richard Lloyd


  5. Thank you Richard. Sorry you lost your first version! How upsetting that can be… From your graphic description—I can visualise the Movements process perfectly from it! Thank you.

    It’s a matter of some considerable regret that I did not discover Movements (or the 4th Way come to that) till late on in life. I only crashed into the Internet-world in 2003 and was truly amazed to find that I was not the only person in the world to have striven to piece the unsystematic system called the Fourth Way together for myself as I had humbly imagined myself to be. It will no doubt seem incredible that I did not know that 4W groups were alive and kicking all round the world; I knew that Nicoll had weekly seminars till 1953 and that Bennett had been very active till 1974—I could have tried to discover more but I didn’t. For thirty years I worked on what I found in Ouspensky, Nicoll & Bennett, applied it to myself, my life, the things I did, my relationships, fused it into the teaching of NLP & Covey & Accelerated Learning (something Bennett was working on when he died…) Worked on figuring out how all the ideas could be made to function in a teaching setting.

    There seems to be something in my essence that calls me a ‘teacher’, a manipulator of ideas and converter of them into something that might work for others. I can’t come across an idea without starting to figure out how it could be given to others; how I could convert what Whitehead called an ‘inert’ idea into something that people might own for themselves, make work for them. ‘I can’t help it’, as they say—I could of course help it: I could simply ditch the whole thing and go off to the South Seas and live a life of bliss. But something holds me to it.

    As in everything else I touch (music, painting, writing) I am entirely self-taught. I do not kid myself that it would be the same as ‘Schools’ that the Afficionados talk of but my ‘School’ has been the work I’ve done with many many students in the last thirty years. I’ve transformed many of Nicoll’s great insights into practical exercises and learned much from following rlnyc and others in WITW whilst learning to suffer the ‘unpleasant manifestations’ of others (as we are instructed to do!) too busy with their own stuff to realise/accept that there is always more than one way to skin a cat. (As a cat-lover that’s not my favourite metaphor, but it’ll do.) ‘Two ends of a stick’, not to mention the other bits that turn up when you break the same stick in pieces.

    People never getting further than Do Re Mi is such a profound concept. I sense that many people who have been in orthodox 4W Schools have never got further than Mi. Many do not strike me as having gone beyond Mi.

    On my courses, I have people sing & march through the octave with some project or other they’re working on in mind declaiming Hear! Know! Acknowledge! the words of the project (etc), pausing at each note to run through what they’re hearing, what they think they know, and acknowledging both as a real live pattern. Then they do the slide of the semi-tone which I’ve taught them to appreciate before. At Fa with something different in their spirit—something uplifting after the semi-tone—they check their Understanding before moving on to Sol where they develop an Aim for harnessing the Understanding (for me there’s little point in having the Understanding unless one’s going to do something with it…). Will is La and Just Get On With It is Si before the next semi-tone slide which is, in my understanding, ‘Transformation of Negative Emotion. There seems to be a lot of argument about this but it works for me as a way of avoiding the YESBUT syndrome. This process was something I worked out for myself, I think from Nicoll, applying the first four steps for myself as I did it to walk my talk.

    As a fundamentally K-learner, I always have to get on the inside of learning. I’m a DIY learner. I’m not quite how/why I was reasonably successful at school in the early fifties because all the teaching there was addressed to the Intellectual Centre. But there’s so much that stuck from that in spite of—notably the opportunity of a consistent modelling on absolute fruitcake teachers. I am so grateful for their eccentricity—there’s not much of it around in these straitened days.

    And then the Enneagram, for which, like you, I have a profound regard. I know it’s too late for me to take up Movements—apart from when I leap on my motorbike I’m a physical wreck. That’s my regret. But I do get people to engage the dynamic of the inner lines by walking them; that’s the total brain/body/all-centred approach that seems to me to be necessary for its understanding. I have come to think of the Enneagram as an immense System of systems and a massive expansion of the concept of NLP metaprograms.

    I have accepted, horror of horrors no doubt, that the Enneagram can portray all human (and inhuman, maybe) programs. I follow the Gurdjieff quotation that all human knowledge can be marshalled on it. Naranjo, whom I met briefly one weekend and thought brilliant, has an approach which I find works. I have verified its working. What he seems not to have is the concept of Multiple-I’s. For me the Enneagram is a way of coming to terms with one’s Multiple-I’s.

    I completely agree about the Enneagram being musical—the music of the Spheres. The profundity of the model with all its mysterious mathematics goes on and on for me.

    So, as an example I work with, the figure that represents Observer/Thinker can reveal the metaprogram Totally Open-minded Investigator of Everything through to Absolute Dogmatic Pronouncer on all issues. This is obviously related to the Could-do/Have-to simple metaprogram in standard NLP courses but there are so many gradations in between that the mind boggles. Multiply that by nine and then take the effect of directions of integration and disintegration into account and there emerge a trillion variables. To reduce the Enneagram to a typological model is rubbish.

    I expect that all this has long ago gone out into the theatre bar so I’ll shout STOP! at myself!

    Best Wishes



    1. Dear Colin,

      First of all I would like to say that I have always recognized the teacher in you – you are a very astute man, and a man of intelligence, which to say the least is quite rare. Once, when I realize that 100 in the IQ scale was the middle of the bell curve and not the bottom of the scale I felt terrifyingly dizzy, as my recorded IQ is 163.

      The other thing I should say is that you have no right to regret. Remorse of conscience is acceptable and useful whereas regret is a negative emotion. It is a form of frustration about something in the past concerning our own real self as opposed to the fictionalized ideal self (which is the real idolatry) – said imagined ideal self has taken the position of Master, so that when we find that we cannot measure up in reality we get embarrassed or we feel regret because we have failed to do what we would do if we were idealized.

      I also feel a certain “something” that I would deem to be guilt at turning your blog space into a private dialogue between the two of us. Perhaps we should move this to email, unless you feel it is valuable continuing here on your blogspot.

      There are many people who come into the work with the “carriage” of the equipage quite damaged so that they are not able to take part in the movements. For you, I would highly suggest the study of Tai Ji Chuan or other Qi Gungs – they are the closest things to the movements that I know of, and can be done in groups in synchronized movement or by oneself. My favorite is called Zineng Qi Gung, which translates as cosmic energy/information/form work. But there are many many styles of Qi Gung – I know about 30 or more different sets of movements. When I first began taking movements classes I was astounded that they coincided with the Chinese Alchemical Movements known as Tai Ji or Qi Gung. It’s never too late to repair the carriage/body as best one can and learning to accept its limitations whether by birth or from living a sedentary life sitting in chairs and allowing the back muscles to atrophy.

      There is a movement that does follow the inner cycle and when people pass each other they twirl once in a clockwise manner. It then becomes even more of an interesting study.

      As for myself I have come to believe that the movements help one to realize that everything is in relationship – everything. I will give you an example of my own. The movements are given out by the instructor with very few words. They initiate a movement and the class follows. And then with increasingly difficult additions there remains the underlying count. So consider that I might be in the third row from the front in the second line from the right. And I happen to have enough awareness and attention connected with the body, the thinking and the emotions concerned with music to know the count and be doing the movement correctly. Now, so much attention is being demanded that perhaps the person next to me, in front of me or somewhere in the group loses the count. They then imitate. But the mistake can spread like a virus until even the instructor does not notice the subtle shift.

      Now I have been awake the entire time and I know the count. But am I right in staying with the original correct count while everyone else has shifted into a mistaken count? Or, is my right now wrong, so that I should adjust myself to coincide with the rest of the group? That’s a dilemma I have actually found myself in. No matter how right I am I have become wrong! It is actually quite funny to see all the students groping in the dark as it were. They are supposed to keep their attention upon themselves and all of the various instructions wordlessly given, but the suggestibility and gullibility and imitation of people in front of her to the side of them can easily knock them off balance. This can either frustrate or lead to compassion, because we are all shmucks, each pushed to the limit of their own being, which slowly enlarges due to the demand on all three centers to be in the same place – on and in the body.

      As to the Enneagram, perhaps that is a topic we can take up. I also use Skype and if you have it on your computer, perhaps we can even speak face-to-face.
      Best regards,


      1. Dear Richard

        If I am not allowed to have Being-regretful-I then you can’t have Feeling-guilty-I ! 🙂

        But I too am wondering whether we ought not to go private or at least work on something that could eventually go up as a Glob under joint names – something like that…



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