Impressions

 

The Work teaches that there are foods necessary for human life: ordinary food, air, and impressions. These three foods give energy and are necessary but the most important is the food of impressions. One can become ill from lack of any one of these three foods, or from the poor quality of any one of them, or from our improper or incomplete assimilation and digestive functions themselves. Further, the teaching states that without ordinary food, one can live for perhaps a few weeks. Without the food of air, one can perhaps live a few minutes. And the Work says that without some food of impressions, one cannot live even a moment. The degree of refinement, the digestion of the latter depends on the degree of one’s consciousness.

 

“We live by impressions. Impressions are the most important food of all the foods that enter the human machine. … No matter what a depressed person eats with his mouth, or what air he breathes, it will not cure him until he gets that letter that he is waiting for in which it is said that he has passed his examination, or that somebody loves him, or that he has won his lawsuit. Now a letter is not air, nor physical food: it is a series of ink-marks on a paper that convey to him certain meaning that transforms his state. …

 

“Now do you think we live chiefly in a world of impressions and depend upon them? What you hear, what you read, what you see, constitutes impressions – and also what we think to ourselves inwardly. Our real life is this world of impressions and how we receive them and how we react to them, and it is in this world if impressions that we have to learn to live in the right way, this very delicate world that we are continually concerned with and concerned about. A telegram [an email, a news feed] may completely alter a sense of the future. A telegram [an email, a news feed] is neither the food of air nor physical food like a beefsteak but it is a totally different kind of food which the Work calls impressions. When a person smiles at you, it is an impression and it may warm your heart and your whole being, whereas when a person frowns at you the reverse result may be felt. Impressions are psychological and yet the Work says they have a certain materiality, a finer materiality than the materiality of air or a beefsteak. …

 

“Being exposed to constant bad news, constant negative criticism by others, constant fault-finding, all these form a class of impressions that will not give us the right force for normal life – I mean, under ordinary conditions of life. We all remember when someone has said something pleasant to us, and we must all have noticed how sometimes a single look or word can make us feel much better. In this delicate world of psychological impressions we are like clumsy hippopotami, both to ourselves and to other people. For a long time we try to get impressions from others that will make us content with ourselves, having no strength to work against the wrong feelings of ourselves produced, for example, by flattery, by compliments, by successful moments, etc. When we are in that state our psychic life is far too delicate and not rightly based. What is it we crave most, mechanically speaking? We crave most attention, and this belongs to the satisfaction of the vanity. … To live by impressions of this kind is to live the life of this most powerful thing in us called false personality. …

 

“The question in the Work is: ‘On what do impressions fall in you?’ …

 

“When impressions begin to fall on us to a deeper level, we begin to live in an entirely new world. If you want to live in a new world you must go deeper – you must get away from the surface world of yourself and this is certainly in one sense painful but in another sense extraordinarily full of meaning and satisfaction. You then begin to realize what this means: ‘I am not this “I”‘ and this already means a certain degree of Self-remembering. Now the Work teaches that we must have constant impressions in order to live. We must have the impressions of all foods, all the fruits of the earth, because we are a microcosmos or small world living first of all in the macrocosmos or big world of nature (our first big world – i.e., the first cosmos above us called in the Work ‘organic life’). We are given the power in the marvelous organization of our senses to taste the impressions of this big world of nature. We are given the power of tasting butter and jam and bread and pears and apples and caviar and fish and meat, and of smelling grass and the sea. Have you ever thought that we have these powers already in us? … We have eyes that respond to the vibrations of light, ears that respond to the vibrations of air. In short, we are constructed to take in impressions. …

 

“Now I want to bring in here in this connection what the Work calls the supreme food of impressions. Let us suppose we are governed by tastes. We have heard about inner taste which can discriminate between good psychological food and bad psychological food just as our physical taste can in regard to literal food. The supreme physical impression that we can give our whole machine is that of Self-remembering, the finest taste of all tastes possible, the taste of something akin to ‘I.’ The Work says that a moment of Self-remembering supplies every cell in the body with food of a kind that it does not ordinarily get. The Work says that when you remember yourself you give a shock to the whole of you. Every cell receives force and new energy – i.e., a new food. … If you can do this, you will notice that you feel quite different, as if you had turned on the light. …

 

“The highest impression is the feeling of Real ‘I.’ This does not come from outside but is an impression from inside.

– Maurice Nicoll, Commentaries, “Commentary on The Food of Impressions,” Vol. 2, pp. 652-657

 

The Work idea of impressions is also connected to the food octave and hydrogens, first conscious shock and A-B-C influences, among others.