(For Laurie & Pat & Patrick & Tom & Ed & All…)

Life’s a Story We Tell Ourselves

One of the stories I tell myself is that it’s always time to begin again, like Mr Polly.

Last night (3rd May 2014) for the umpteenth time I watched the old b&w, entirely gimmickless, film The History of Mr Polly (based on the novel by the incomparable HGWells) which I first saw exactly sixty years ago to the day (or at least month) in Kingston, Surrey, one afternoon from Kingston Grammar School when we were studying it for final exams.

Mr Polly, dedicated to exploratious chivalraic menanderings and entranced by sesquippledan verboojuice — the kind you find, for instance, in Rabeloose — Mr Polly, c’est moi!

I am forever so grateful to that schooling.

And another story I got more recently from Stephen Covey who, at around the age of 70, is reported to have said, ‘the best is still to come…’ That’s a great story.

All these 3-score years I’ve spent a fair amount of time concocting a story about the way I imagine I am now… Lots of sub-stories that have come out variously in poems and novels, music & painting. Each separate story is told by a different part of what I choose to call my self. One of the stories I tell myself is that it’s worth spending time consciously making up stories of one kind or another.

In another of my stories I am always wondering what I’m going to be when I grow up.

One of the very greatest stories is Gurdjieff’s Beelzebub’s Tales to His Grandson, not to mention Meetings With Remarkable Men.

And I’ve told lots of stories to groups I’ve worked with — more and more as it became clear that the stories I told myself could be interpreted by others in their own way and help them to transform their lives too.

All life’s a story we tell ourselves. Another story I tell myself is that there’s no point in telling yourself a story if you’re not its hero/ine. Hero/ine in a humble/invisible/non-self-important kind of way — one that leads from the rear (Enneagram Top Form 8).

On courses, modelling on Wyatt Woodsmall, I tell a series of stories (or Guided Visualisations) about Old Sage-I and Apprentice-I. It’s entirely open to the listeners to figure out which of these shady characters is themselves. I change the story on the spot to include references to images members of the group will have come up with while we’ve been together.

Of course, one eventually discovers that all the people in the stories are aspects of self. The hero/ine is whoever you take it to be.


The Life House

Old-sage-I said to Apprentice-I, “You know there’s this ancient idea that the human-being is like a house. It’s interesting to think about your house as one with many rooms like that grand National Trust house we’ve just been to. It needs many servants to keep it going.”

“And lifts to take you to other levels,” said Apprentice-I.

“And lifts… and dumb waiters and many servants. Especially when the master and mistress are abroad and the servants are playing up.”

“How do we know this?” said Apprentice-I.

“By looking very carefully at what’s going on inside your house.

 the butler is looking after the garden and making a real mess of it
the gardener is doing the cooking
 the cook is polishing the shoes
 the chauffeur does the shopping and forgets his list
 the maid sweeps the dust under the carpet
 there are wild parties every night

“I see: my servants are not doing the jobs they are employed to do. It’s not good enough,” said Apprentice-I.

“You suddenly decide that until the master and mistress return you’ll take on the role of Deputy Steward. What will you do to sort out your unruly servants?”

“Call a meeting…”

“At the first opportunity…

get the butler to agree to serve the meals
 have the gardener do the gardening
 get the shoe-boy to do the shoes
 make sure the maid does a proper job
 ban unruly parties

Ensure that every part of your house is run on sound lines…”

“Have all my servants perform as they should do…”

Old-sage-I had gone home to his house.


In the Forest

Old Sage-I and the Apprentice have been travelling for many days when it occurs to the Apprentice to say, “Now we’re in the middle of this deep dark forest, I realise that it is not at all clear to me what the purpose of our journey is…”

“The purpose,” said Sage-I, “is just whatever you conceive it to be—stay in the Here and Now and you will know just what it is…”

“In that case,” said the Apprentice, “I need to know where we are going to…”

“That’s not in the Here and Now,” said Sage-I. “Stay in the Here and Now and where we are going will not matter in the slightest…”

“Well, tell me exactly where we are here and now,” said the Apprentice, “so that I may get my bearings…”

“Wanting to know where you are is the result of wanting to join past with future—to establish some kind of seamless continuity which makes you wonder what has been and what is to come. Such a concern takes you out of the Here and Now. Stay right here in the Here and Now where past and future have no existence.” Sage-I continued: “Look at the patterns of shadows on the path. See the blue sky between the tops of the trees high above you and know that that’s all there is. And Love. And awareness. And certainty. And joy…”

“But if we don’t know where we’ve come from and we don’t know where we’re going to and we don’t know where we are now how will we be able to make the return journey when the time is right?”

“Stay in the Here and Now. When you ask a question like that, you not in the Here and Now. Stay in the Here and Now… And let the return take care of itself.”

In the Here and Now which is the only reality, Sage-I and the Apprentice are back in their little castle and the Apprentice has spent a long time in the library reflecting on all the things Sage-I said and applying the lessons to his own life.

“And what have you learned? said Old Sage-I.

The Apprentice said, “I have learned that to begin to know something about who I am I must BE HERE NOW. I have found that when I focus on the past I neglect to be Here and Now. When that happens, past regrets, concerns, gut-rots and even successes prevent me from being in the Here and Now. On the other hand, when I focus on the future, I get into fearfulness, consumed by expectation and ambition and I lose touch with the Here and Now that way. So I am practising being in the Here and Now. But I am still worried: tell me what I have to do to stay like that?”

Sage-I, head to one side, just looked at the Apprentice in a slightly quizzical way and said nothing.

“Right,” said the Apprentice, “I know—that question comes out of the future. When I’m in the Here and Now I don’t ever have to ask such a question. I just look at the shadow reflections from the moat flickering on the ceiling. This is me being me Here and Now…”

When he turned for approval, the Old Sage-I had disappeared.


In the Castle

Old-sage-I and Apprentice-I have set themselves up in an old castle with hundreds of rooms and a central courtyard off which Old-sage-I has a Laboratory of the Mind.

“What are we going to do today?” said Apprentice-I.

“It’s up to you really,” said Old-sage-I. “What you could do to start with is to go up into the Watchtower, up all those steps so you get a good fill of air — second Body Food — to re-charge your batteries.

Half-an-hour later, Apprentice-I returned.

“And what did you see?”

“The landscape, the patchwork of fields, the gulls, an eagle, clouds, the horizon, villages far and wide…”

“The Food of Pure Impressions…” said Old-sage-I.

“Eh??” said Apprentice-I.

“The Food of Pure Impressions — it comes when you take yourself out of your self…”

“Into Meta-I?” said Apprentice-I.

“Into Meta-I, where you get things pure and simple. When you are in Being-here-now-I without past or future…”

“This is me being me here now,” said Apprentice-I.

“The Food of Pure Impressions is the very highest form of food without which you would be no more…”

“My experience is telling me that I have to believe this. An eagle, a gull, the horizon…”

“Without the names, just as they are up there: and so you get to the Centre of your Being, the very heart of it all…” said Old-sage-I.

After they had thoroughly explored this in Old-sage-I’s Laboratory of the Mind, they discovered that they had, as it happened, done all that they needed to do so they went home.


On Not Naming Things

Old-sage-I and Apprentice-I are in the garden…

“I’d like to know the names of all these flowers. The kinds of birds that come here, the insects…”

“And what would that do for you?” said Old-sage-I.

“I’d be able to catalogue reality, to get it straight in my mind.”

“There was a time when nothing had a name. Everything was nameless; it just existed in the here and now,” said Old-sage-I. “Then along came human-beings and invented names and categories.”

“I’m not sure what’s wrong with that,” said Apprentice-I.

“Well, it takes you out of the here and now and into the parallel invented world of books— dictionaries, reference books, encyclopedias—and now websites. These are all replacements for things as they are. Look at this tree—what do you see?”

“I see the kind of leaves that tell me it’s a horse chestnut…”

“But what do you see?” said Old-sage-I. “What do you see?”

“Trunk, branches…”

“What do you see?”

“Movement… Patterns of twigs & leaves…”

“What do you really see?”

Apprentice-I was suddenly speechless for what he suddenly saw was treeness, the essence of tree, the pattern, the flow of sap. Strange creatures without names.

“There are three kinds of food,” said Old-sage-I. “Fish & chips, oxygen and the highest form of food which is Pure Impressions. Tree as treeness is what can just hit the senses—just let it come in the here and now without striving after meaning. Stand just here for a moment by the fountain and project yourself beyond the garden so you see distance, knowing that time and space are just human inventions…”

“I can see pattern. The words have all gone. There’s a play of light and shade and then I can make even those words dissolve…”

“Pure Impressions,” said Old-sage-I. “Feel their energy. Take it into yourself here and now. Then do the same with human-beings though it’s best to start with cats & dogs — they are more sensitive… and then little babies. Grown-ups are more of a challenge.”

“I feel what you say,” said Apprentice-I…


Back in the Forest

The Apprentice is back in the deep cold dark forest, Being Here Now. Notice the dense patterns of leaves, hear the sound of birds, shout STOP every now and again, become aware of inner and outer self, notice the pattern of ‘I’s, become aware of the shadows on the path and the special gem-like stones there are in this area.

Moving attention outside the mind, the Apprentice is suddenly aware that the trees are beginning to thin out. There is a clearing in the middle of the forest and a congregation of people standing around looking a bit blank; the Apprentice seems to have met quite a lot of them before but is not quite sure where; they seem familiar. Where have they been all the time?

There is a huge statue in the clearing; it seems to be made of crystal; it shines in the light of the flames from the wood fire that has been lit in front of it. It is still. Unmoving. Its arms are raised towards the sky. It seems to be standing there as a silent Witness, collecting energy for many centuries but unable to move. The fire on its own does not give it life.

The people are unable on their own to give it life; they stand around at the base of the statue mumbling disconsolately to one another. “What else can we do to bring the statue to life?” “Listen to the wind — perhaps that will breath life into it…” The wind on its own does not give it life.

They look to the water in the passing stream. The Apprentice looks at it with them and understands that they are not in the Here & Now, and notices the clear ripples bubbling on the gems on its bed, hears the burbling, sees the kingfisher swooping and the yellow celandine dripping down from the banks. The water on its own does not give the statue life.

“What if we lift up our eyes to the mountains in the distance?” The landscape opens up before your very eyes as the camera pans out and the forest takes its place in a vast bowl of a valley.

You see the fire leaping up at your feet; you hear the sounds of the stream running past; you feel the wind on your face; you raise your hands from your heart to the tops of the mountains.

Earth, air, fire, water, all together bring your Witness-I to life. Witness-I crystallises out from the feeling of being at one with the universe. Earth, air, fire, water. Suns and stars, planets that have been and planets to come. You can see the people in the clearing going about their business, no longer mumbling to each other but seeming to know their purpose and their intent, focussed on what they are doing, getting things into order for themselves. Witness-I takes its place amongst them. Mingles. Helps to keep things going.

You look round for the Apprentice. The Apprentice is nowhere to be seen.


On Leaving Things Behind You

Old-Sage-I said to Apprentice-I, “Well, here we are back in father’s garden…”

“What are we doing here, now, then?” said Apprentice-I.

“We are finding out what it’s like to be here now.”

“But all that was so long ago and it makes me feel sad to think about it…”

“As I said — here we are back in father’s garden, as if we’d never ever been away. We don’t actually need to think about it. Thinking breeds all kinds of unnecessary things. We’re here, now and the garden is inside us; we are the garden. Look! Outside the French windows the path through the rockeries to the lawn. The only good thing that mother had to say about father was that he kept the best lawn edges in the street…”

“I feel sad…”

“There is a sadness — but it’s only one part of us; it’s just one single ‘I’ that feels sad. Thank it! It needs to help us to remember but it’s not in the here & now. When you determine to be here now, there is no sadness…”

“And beyond the lawn,” said Apprentice-I, “there’s an abundant cherry tree and a pond with newts in it…”

“By the side of the lawn is the path by the herbaceous border with roses & golden rod where we stood and looked up at Orion…”

“And then the pergola — father’s pride & joy which he left behind him to fight on the edge of some war in India — the rose stems an inch thick,” Apprentice-I warmed to the idea of being here now; it was just as if there was no gap between anything; you can…”

“Take it all with you… Connect everything up together. The smell of creosote… The bonfires and the apple trees & pear trees…”

“Just like in our garden now…” said Apprentice-I.

“Where we’ve contrived to make space in celebration for everything we associate with father — spur valerian, creeping ginny…”

“He told us never to let that into a garden…”

“That’s why it’s here… And all the sedums and sempervivums… the Always Living… How he loved them…”

“And the four foot cactus thriving out in the snow one year…” Saying this, Apprentice-I shivered.

“We always said that our next garden would contain what father loved: rockeries, a pond, a pergola, apple trees, crazy paving…”

“And here we are, here & now, five gardens later, everything transplanted: rockery, pond, pergola, apple trees, crazy paving, bonfires…” said Apprentice-I, convinced now that father’s garden was in soul & mind.

“Look at the creeping ginny, creeping all over the place like there was no tomorrow…”

“And the spur valerian ready to burst into bloom…”

“And the roses…”

Centuries later they were back in their father’s garden in the here & now of Now…

Apprentice-I looked round; Old-Sage-I had disappeared into the shrubbery.


Then I tell myself the story that these are just templates for endless stories into infinity…

Battling with Lyotard

28 thoughts on “STORIES (R12+)

  1. All Stories are equal – but some are more equal than others – thanks again Sage I.

    The simple “fact” is that remaining in the here and now leads to an automatic appreciation of what is; in the moment; rather than what was or what might have been or what could be or might be. IF.

    In each of those time frames only the present can be relied upon and even then it is ever changing moment by moment; in a state of flux. “I”‘s of various hue coming in and out of focus and intensity until they fade away to reveal clarity. Nothing to hold onto except the immediate moment.

    What is held inside of us as stories is pure imagination which can be transformed by story telling of a different and particular sort. So chose your story carefully, and know that it is a story like any other and its effect can be profound.

    Even the most precious of memories exist only in our minds and bodies – there is no longer any external physical manifestation of them and yet they remain precious.

    Does this serve any purpose? perhaps only to remind us that we are human and for me the memories/stories are a representation of the fact that I am capable (usually – that is to say most of my “i” are) of human interaction and I don’t simply exist in my head. My most treasured possessions are not things they are the memories of relationships with people I have loved and still do, whether they are actually here on this earth or not. Life feels more comfortable for me that way – even though there is an I that thinks that’s poppycock and perhaps I do, and all that, just exist in my head.

    Sometimes it feels that way when my voice is apparently inaudible or no one listens or apparently sees “me”.

    If we really appreciate the here and now – we simply don’t have the mind space or “time” or incumberance for being lured by the past or the future, as when truly present in the fleeting moments; those time frames simply don’t exist. “reality” however is heightened.

    Freedom from “striving” – experience of “noticing” and “having” in abundance. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

    Thanks for dragging me back to this moment. And a special thanks for the wonderful picture.

    The bonfire beckons.


      1. Thank you Tom – I like it too. I really like your imagining of conversations between persons sitting together in a garden. Thanks for that one.


  2. Excellent piece of writing Colin. I have read so many blogs and articles lately on this very important theme, the ‘ here and now’. And your story weaved a perfect thread in this respect. BTTHG and Tales of remarkable men are two of my favourites also.


  3. The garden as allegory stretches back to time immortal and forward to time infinte, thus like Pat said, everything is in flux, and the full wonder of life as mystery blazes through us. In Colin’s last glob I was reminded of the so-called Postmodern world where all the universal patterns no longer exist. Joseph Campbell’s “The Hero with a Thousand Faces” is without a hero. Our journey according to the Postmodern literary crowd is an existential tour of the super market, where canned goods are placed along side the Upanishads as equals, and the illuminating genius of say Blake rests against the latest car commercial. I’m not disqualifying the fun that many Postmodern artists have had with the idea of deconstructing our social and political institutions. In a world where anything goes it’s a delight to see the absurdity of the church and other institutions cleverly positioned to reveal how corrupt they are, but once a critical approach becomes a product then the market value is easily co-opted by the power-possessers and the fun ends. In the Postmodern world there is no divine ground – nothing is sacred, and as appealing as that might sound to some (my cynical I’s) the classic operating principle inherent in Old-Sage-I and Apprentice-I would fall victim to its own classic emotional honesty The word classic is also cannon fodder in the Postmodern lexicon.

    What Colin does with his garden allegory is create a story about the Here and Now that connects us all to something universal, something genuine, a source of nourishment that is sadly needed on the planet Here and Now! I remember my first encounter with Derrida. The literature department was in a tizzy about this new form of criticism. The in-fighting was intense between the new critical approach and the old. In my first paper I wrote a critic on Huckleberry Finn, my thesis was the raft as a metaphor for a new home for Huck and Jim. The raft became a living thing where both Huck and Jim were transformed. I got a D- and didn’t understand why. My sister who is and was a literature professor at the time read the paper and guaranteed I would get an A. The professor told me that my paper was formalistic, and an example of New Criticism, and had nothing to do with Deconstructionism. Once I realized that all I had to do was throw out all the rules that included time as a linear phenomenon, and could operate from a non-systemic-system of thinking I received A’s for the rest of the semester. The professor even used my final paper as an example for the following semester’s class. It was fun but left me empty. I was full of myself and maybe a bit more cynical for a few weeks after the class ended.

    Fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, dark and light, marriage, music, texture, nature, the changing seasons, all flow through the garden. The stars above once told us the great stories, they offered us glimpses into the unknown. Poets, and scientists gazed at them, and did much more than that, they made great discoveries by asking the same questions, who are we and why are we here? Why ask any questions if we already know, and feel compelled to discount everything? There seems to be a similarity between Multiple I’s and the Postmodern world we live in, but I think one lives up in the head, and the other lives in the whole being.

    Here and now in Meta I there is an emotional vibrancy, a vividness that is a witness to the shifting ground, and the possibilities of movement.

    Identity Politics is all the rage now in literary criticism. The lens in this new form of criticism is broken, wounded, disabled, and angry. Welcome to the future of reading a text -ouch!


    1. Thanks Patrick. Really illuminating! I begin to understand just how high up on to a beach I’ve been chucked by the waves of time – no chance whatsoever of being in the swim ever again. And that’s a great relief; I stand up on the top of the dunes and cast my ‘I’ on the sad hopeless vista. Maybe that’s where post-post-post modernism starts: a classical critique of all the garbage of the present that my eye can see chucked up around me. A return to aestheticism & looking at the words on the page.


      Patrick’s recent haiku:-

      I come here often
      before the light or any sound
      first consciousness

      I’ve returned to you
      old white pad of blank pages
      alive and full of ghosts

      the cat sleeps near by
      she is the silence of now
      I remember her

      the yard needs clearing
      the rake hangs in the garage
      where my father waits


      1. Patrick refers to Identity Politics, a term I’m not familiar with! Just something that passed me by, like all the post-modernism stuff, to be looked askance at from the top of the sand-dunes. So I thought perhaps I ought to wiki it. This is a version of what I found:-

        Identity politics
        is a term that’s been used in political and academic discourse since the 1970’s: it’s about a focus upon the self-interest and perspectives of self-identified social interest groups and ways in which people’s politics may be shaped by aspects of their identity through loosely correlated social organizations. Examples include social organizations based on race, class, religion, gender, ethnicity, ideology, nation, sexual orientation, culture, information preference, history, musical or literary preference, medical conditions, professions or hobbies. Not all members of any given group are necessarily involved in identity politics.

        Identity politics can most notably be found in class movements, feminist movements, gay and lesbian movements, disability movements, ethnic movements and post colonial movements. Identity politics is open to wide debate and critique. Minority influence is a central component of identity politics. Minority influence is a form of social influence which takes place when a majority is being influenced to accept the beliefs or behavior of a minority. Unlike other forms of influence this usually involves a personal shift in private opinion. This personal shift in opinion is called conversion.

        One aim of identity politics has been to empower those feeling oppressed to articulate their felt oppression in terms of their own experience – a process of consciousness-raising that distinguishes identity politics from the liberal conception of politics as driven by individual self-interest.

        Formally, it may be taken back to Marx’s earliest statements about a class becoming conscious of itself and developing a class identity. Class Identity politics were first described briefly in an article by L. A. Kauffman, who traced its origins to the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), an organization of the civil-rights movement in the USA in the early and mid-1960s.[2] Although SNCC invented many of the fundamental practices, and various black power groups extended them, they apparently found no need to apply a term. Rather, the term emerged when others outside the black freedom movements – particularly, the race- and ethnic-specific women’s liberation movements, such as Black feminism – began to adopt the practice in the late 1960s. Traces of identity politics can also be found in the early writings of the modern gay movement…

        The rise of the right-wing in Europe, particularly following the European Parliament election, 2009, was seen as an establishment of identity as reflected against the ‘other’ minorities.


        In literary criticism, then, it determines an approach slanted perspective – one that, rather than take an objective view based on the words on the page (= New Criticism!) comes at things from a specific point of view, from within some subjectively committed grouping.

        A friend has just introduced me to the concept of autoethnography – a kind of self-disclosure within a specific social context. I think that’s maybe what I was doing when I wrote my recent piece on HGWells’ The History of Mr Polly…h-real-beliefs [insert HGWells!] which combines looking at the words on the page and personal autobiography – so it’s about identity: it’s a response to a novel deriving from the way I have been shaped by my culture & up-bringing.



      2. Hi Colin, Your metaphor of being chucked up on a beach and never likely to be in the swim again reminded me of the Buddha’s story when he was questioning life. He put his begging bowl in a river and it slowly drifted UPstream – symbolising that spiritual life goes AGAINST the ordinary way or accepted way of looking at things, or should that be, against the accepted way of DOING things!


  4. Yes. Other authors have said that, an I have made this point in my comments on FB, and my blogs. Here are two notable authors who have this, Colin, that life is a story we tell ourselves: James Hillman, and Gregory Bateson. You of course will know how these are; your education and scholarship are a relief, one becomes tired of having to explain things to so many, online and offline, IRL.


    1. Thanks Henry! Scholarship! I’m trying that on for size!

      My daughter’s just written to say that my youngest grandchild is writing about me in an English test: he had to write about three people and I am one. One of the things he had to say was what each person has taught them. From me, apparently he is going to say that he has learnt ‘not to go along with things just because it’s the fashion’!! My life has not been in vain! and he’s obviously ready for Beelzebub!

      Scholarship is really taking things on board, perhaps – making them your own possession, as Whitehead said 90 years ago.


  5. I am grateful to the LinkedIn gods that did not allow you to post your original thoughts and prompted you to elaborate into this wonderfully, delightful experience that i just enjoyed. Thank you, Colin!.


  6. Colin,I used your book “CAA” to work my way through Identity Politics, seeing it as another abstraction 🙂


    1. Hoho! It’s a major abstraction! My meagre bit of research leaves me with the feeling that it’s a concept dreamt up out of nothing – like all abstractions. They have such invented power to distract us from what’s actually there before our very ‘I’s.


      1. A little story about my introduction to a Queer/Disabled critical approach: On the first day of class the professor had us all talk a bit about why we were interested in taking her class. There were about 15 of us in the class, a small group because the course and professor had a reputation for being intellectually demanding. This one young woman spoke up and said, “I’m tired of reading and listening to old white men, they don’t have much to offer me or any other feminist!” There was a short pause and then the professor said, “You know Amara, Patrick is sitting right across from you.” The timing was perfect and we all had a good laugh, but there you go, right in front of our ‘I’s’ 🙂 This was also the class where I introduced Multiple ‘I’s’ to the English department. Professor Osbourne was open to the idea as long as my thesis held up under her intellectual scrutiny. We had many discussions about the emotional aspect of Identity Politics and how easily things just float away without a strong “I” or foundation. One of the precepts of Identity Politics is the sense that the wounds we walk around with contribute to our many splits, and these splits cause reciprocal destruction between various marginalized groups. I’m guessing the anger toward H.G. Wells or say T.S. Eliot has little to do with their written work, but this is where the trouble begins if it grows into my own personal edifice of self-justification. Technology is moving so fast that the next wave of literary criticism is…?The English Dept. was once the place where students went to ignite their consciousness, now it’s the Physics Dept. that dances until dawn, toasting to the gods, and exploring their young fertile impulses. Dance On!


  7. Thanks for that, Patrick! Gives me a great handle on something I’d set on one side – Litcrit from a a specific angle. I suppose that in the Good Old Days (1960’s) it used to be called ‘commitment’ – letting one’s emotional belief in something (socialism, say) get in the way of ‘objectivity’. So Identity Politics is the result of living too much in the Emotional Centre to the detriment of Intellectual Centre and lacking the necessary energy of Moving Centre to stand up and effect a balance. Amara’s response sounds like it came solely from Emotional Centre. Prof Osbourne demonstrated Balance.

    The strong ‘I’ Patrick refers to is perhaps Balanced-I – the one that is capable of inhabiting all Centres consistently; inhabiting every part of the body/brain system (thinking/feeling/doing – neocortex/limbic/reptile) at one and the same time.

    Strong-I maybe morphs into Meta-I which is capable of standing outside the whole sorry business of being identified with a specific cause like Feminism/Black studies/Marxism/Technology/self/any politico-religious grouping and so on. Identification is loss of self in some abstraction. Self gets lost in the mental tyrant behaviour of an abstraction.

    One can of course examine anything any way one chooses. What’s desirable though is to be able to approach whatever it is as Being-balanced-I. Lop-sided consideration of anything leads to violence – of spirit, in self, in gang, or on an international basis.

    And, by the way, Patrick, thanks for pointing out how my book CAA can be used to deconstruct Identity Politics. That’s such a whizz! (Emotional Centre talking)


  8. Once again, I’m coming much too late to the party, Colin! I’ve fallen way behind in my reading these past few weeks, while traveling first up to Boston to fetch one child home from college for the summer, and then down to Philadelphia to visit the other child who is staying on campus through the fall.

    I loved the “Socratic-dialogue” feel of your tales in the garden, so touchingly ended with that photo. As each episode flowed into the next, I was reminded of the simple yet powerful flow of meditation practice – we begin with our attention focused on the here-and-now, and as thoughts and feelings arise (like the episodes in your story) we simply notice them and allow them to fade away, as mysteriously as Old-sage-I and Apprentice-I kept disappearing at the end of so many of the episodes.

    While the conversations recorded in the tales actually occurred between your two separate “I’s” (old-sage and apprentice), it strikes me that in a metaphorical sense they take place between you (Socrates) and us (your readers),sitting together in the garden.

    And, as the comments above attest, there is in fact just such a vibrant dialogue going on. Dance on, indeed!



    1. As Pat says ‘Never Too Late’! The world does press in on us! Nice to think of you going for the children!

      Thanks for the comment about the dialogue. I suppose that the best stories are the ones where you don’t quite know where you are and can therefore be anywhere/anybody you choose – a creative space.



  9. Tom it’s never too late to come to the party. All of this reminds me of Stephen Gilligan’s (still on my shoulder Colin) “both and” thinking. Old-sage-I and Apprentice-I are, both ever present in all of us and frequently wondering off at the same time.

    I am minded also of a piece I wrote before I consciously knew anything of multiple I’s although I knew of “parts” and certainly long long before I “met” Colin. I wrote this half way through my first training in Ericsonian and Cognitive Analytical Hypnotherapy. Ericsonian hypnotherapy is an indirect approach that uses, amongst many other things, metaphor and story telling of a kind designed to allow the client to find their own solution to their current challenge. Which in turn is designed to provide the client with an experience self-empowerment.

    Anyhow – I found the teaching mindblowing at the time, but once I got my head around it, I wrote this peice and sent it to my fellow students not long before Exam day.

    It’s far from socratic – but I hope you like it any way – Colin’s heard it before so I hope he’ll forgive me for including it here.

    The Sorcerer’s Apprentice
    From May 2001
    Pat Mason

    The Sorcerer got out his big book of spells and told his apprentice to copy them all diligently in his best handwriting. He also told the apprentice to go in search of new spells from other sorcerers and to add those also to the book.

    The apprentice was conscientious in his work; he copied exactly all the old spells from the Sorcerer’s Big Book of spells. He went to the library and also used his broomstick to fly through the ether, gathering information as he went.

    Every day just as the apprentice finished writing down a particular group of spells, the sorcerer first demonstrated them and then made him try them out to make sure he had got them right. That he understood exactly how it was done. The funny thing was that the sorcerer never quite followed the exact same spell but it seemed to work out anyway – the result was just the same in the end.

    The apprentice asked the sorcerer why he didn’t follow the instructions exactly and he said that he had learned how to do this because he had learned to trust the Neurognomes (these were the little messengers that lived in the Sorcerer’s head) He knew by now that the neurognomes could find their way to the very dark cupboard deep in the recesses of his mind and then transmit the spell he needed to him exactly at the right moment. Some of his best spells had happened that way!

    The apprentice listened with amazement – he wasn’t sure if he had neurognomes or whether it was just the sorcerer who had them. But the Sorcerer said that everyone had them.

    The apprentice got together with some of his fellow apprentices and practiced and practiced spell making until he began to feel quite confident that he could remember what to do. Even though spell making was a risky business.

    When he was alone he would sometimes make spells up on his own and they seemed to work – he managed not to blow the roof off the sorcerer’s laboratory at any rate. But he was still very aware that he was a novice and wasn’t quite sure what harm he could do if he tried out what the sorcerer had suggested and just wait for the neurognomes to transmit the spells. He wasn’t quite sure if he had enough stored in his mind yet anyway. The apprentice studied well and came the day that the Sorcerer decided that he should be tested so that he could be promoted to the rank of Spellchecker.

    The sorcerer was very keen that the apprentice should succeed and gave him all the help he could – on the morning of the test he provided a check list of all the things that the apprentice should include in his spell making. It was clear to the apprentice that the sorcerer expected the apprentice to include quite a few of the things on the list. The forms he had to fill in seemed to indicate this too!

    The apprentice got confused and a little angry at this stage because he had just begun to feel as if he was beginning to understand that spell making was an art not a science. But the sorcerer definitely gave him the impression that there were certain things he wanted to see during the test. This made the apprentice nervous as the list the sorcerer had given him was very long and the apprentice was convinced that he wouldn’t be able to get all the things in that the sorcerer seemed to be expecting.

    The apprentice wanted to please the sorcerer as he had been a patient teacher and he wanted to do well for him, so he tried his hardest in the test to include as much as he could and in fact he needn’t have worried so much because he had already passed the test he didn’t know he was taking. None the less the apprentice spent the next few days thinking about the test and how he might have improved the spells he was demonstrating.

    He was working away one morning when the sorcerer arrived through the ether and told the apprentice that although he had passed, he might have done things differently. The apprentice was a bit disappointed and a little miffed at this because he had followed the sorcerers instructions to the letter. Had he passed or hadn’t he? He spent all the next three days worrying about it.

    He couldn’t resist it any longer and finally asked the sorcerer what he was supposed to do think was required when he had been given a check lists and forms to fill in, that clearly told him all the things he had got to include in his spell making test. Especially as the sorcerer had also said that too!

    The sorcerer looked at him quizzically and just shrugged his shoulders and said you weren’t supposed to “think” anything.

    But But But How can I be a good spell checker if I don’t keep to the list and remember all that you have taught me?

    By forgetting the list said the sorcerer.

    Well this really made the apprentice hopping mad and even more confused ………until he realised of course that the sorcerer had his best interest at heart and was showing he had confidence in him by saying that he could have done it by not following the list so closely, but by just relying on his neurognomes to transmit what he needed when he needed it!

    Of course it was easy for the sorcerer because he had been a sorcerer for a very long time and knew by now that his neurognomes would scurry around and transmit to him just when he needed it. He had done it again and again.

    This was yet another thing that the apprentice had to learn, but he understood now that the sorcerer was trying in his own way to encourage him to become more courageous. It just didn’t come across that way some times!

    He just hoped that the sorcerer remembered how long it had taken him to forget. But he was of course by now very practiced at forgetting and had probably forgotten that too!

    It would seem to me that the neurognomes are at their most active and free in Meta-I.

    In the spirit of both and thinking – this may be off the wall and at the same time not.


    1. Pat – I must have taken the Sorcerer’s advice and forgotten this story so the neurognomes would take care of the learning! So thanks for the reminder!

      The knack of just flopping into remembering & spell checking is so important; we’re so uptight (often – speak for myself…) that we forget that everything happens when we sit back & let it. Gurdjieff (ace Sage-I) would no doubt say that this is about going into ‘Emotional Centre’ in order to feel the stuff learned by ‘Intellectual Centre’ on the pulse (as Robert Dilts – another ace Sage-I) would say.

      I must make a date to visit Stephen Gilligan who I know to be an ace Sage-I. There are so many of them around when you know where to look!


      1. You’ll love meeitng Stephen Gilligan –

        “Gurdjieff (ace Sage-I) would no doubt say that this is about going into ‘Emotional Centre’ in order to feel the stuff learned by ‘Intellectual Centre’ on the pulse (as Robert Dilts – another ace Sage-I) would say”.

        Absolutely! takes longer to write it or read it than it does to experience it. Whether he knows it or not this is the centre of Gilligan’s generative trance work.

        Thanks for your Stories piece Colin – so much has come out of it, it’s been a delight to follow – such is the way of story telling of a certain kind.

        Delightful result with your Grandchild –


      2. I often wonder about the tie-up between Mr G & all these NLP-ish people. I was pretty well into the Fourth Way when I started on NLP (1992) and it all seemed so familiar. My Master-project was to find out all the connections. The only NLP-person I’ve come across that talks anywhere near Fourth Way Lingo is Wyatt Woodsmall (of course another ace Sage-I) and he wouldn’t let on when I challenged him. He doesn’t do Multiple-I’s though!


      3. I’ll send you a link that you might find interesting, where you can listen to Stephen Gilligan talk about generative trance – Mr G2 is in the cotswolds in November. Wyatt Woodsmall is an interesting but secretive character – In my humble opinion a lot of NLP-ish people actively deny or at the very least fail to honour the roots of NLP and are too busy claiming stuff as “their own” invention when it is nothing of the kind – don’t get me started!

        Happy Saturday


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