About the difference between self-observation and self-remembrance

For me I feel that relatively speaking I am at the very beginning of experiencing and practicing self-remembrance. I have had moments in my life when which I experienced self-remembrance more or less. More often I experienced this when I was in a kind of passive state. But also sometimes in an active state, during Gurdjieff Movements. These were very intense and touching experiences. There was a sensation, no, a deep understanding that all is connected, bustling full of life. And then, after such moments, the feeling of disconnection. A bit sad. But also a grateful feeling that these moments are given, but cannot be taken.

The idea of self-remembrance challenges this last conviction. Self-remembrance is a practice and a work. It is a gift and maybe even our duty to remember our self.

So let’s start and begin with self-observation. Self-observation is a conscious effort of attention going outward. This can be outward in the outward world, but also outward in yourself. What am I sensing? What am I feeling? There is an I which ‘records’ the results of this observation.

In this respect self-remembrance is a two way street: yes, you are aware of your environment, but also your environment communicates back to you.

There is a voice in me which states that for self-remembrance additional ‘space’ is needed. 80% of the attention is on the teaching of a Gurdjieff Movement (for example) and then the remaining 20% is reserved for self-remembrance. But more and more I realize that self-remembrance is not a more intense version of self-observation, but a consciousness of a higher order.

It is a much more open experience. It is a connectedness with different energy centers around us. The experience of being one and equal. Continuous communication. Relaxation.

The consequence of self-remembrance is that there is much more space for doing many things, real time. There is a flexibility, an adaptability of doing those things which are right in the moment.

In February 2018, I taught a Gurdjieff Movement for my teachers. At that time I was much more in self-observation mode than in self-remembrance mode. I had a plan which I followed strictly. I forgot to make contact with the group, their position, their understanding. I stopped connecting with myself, with my own inner center. As said, I still have much to learn about self-remembrance. 

Self-remembrance reminds me of that a legendary story of Isis remembering Osiris. Let’s, for arguments sake make Isis the ‘I’ and Osiris our surroundings. What insights can this story give about self-remembrance?

‘When Osiris was killed by Seth, his body was dismembered by Seth into many pieces and scattered around Egypt. His wife Isis roamed Egypt to find all the parts of Osiris back and to remember him. She was able to find all parts of his body, except for one: his phallus. In order to replace the phallus, she created one from gold, placed it on the remembered body of Osiris and made posthumous love to him. From this act of remembrance she became pregnant and begot Horus.’ 

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What does this legend about remembering tell me about self-remembrance?

Remembering is a labor. But rather than Isis going out to find her lover lover (which is more self-observation), self-remembrance as we understand it would be that Isis became aware of his different body parts without looking for them. They would have communicated to her where they were. As a consequence she would have go out to find them.

These different parts of Osiris’ body would have their own unique and heterogonous qualities. The labor that Isis had to perform was not so much gathering of the different parts, but to integrate them while retaining their individual unique qualities. What magic ritual Isis did perform exactly is not told, but from this article about self-remembrance I assume that she understood and communicated with the different parts with equal attention. The last part of the story is most mysterious: why could she not find the original phallus of Osiris and did she very successfully have to create a golden replacement? Gurdjieff supposedly said that sexuality is one of the most important functions with regard to spiritual evolution (see footnote). For me this rings true. My sex center helps me to feel and tune into my surroundings. For this my breath needs to be in my belly, relaxation occurs, and humor and creativity arises. Instead of teaching according to a plan, the movements become a dance. A dance of life, of energies, within and without. Then self-remembrance becomes Self-Remembrance.

  • In search of the miraculous, P.D. Ouspensky pp257-258