Self-remembering in the Work is both a state and a practice that moves us from the sleep of so-called waking consciousness to self-presence or self-consciousness, a state in which a person is aware of their own presence, aliveness, and being: I, here, now. Self-remembering is a vast subject and has been called the “master key” to Gurdjieff’s teaching.
Rebecca Nottingham explains the state of Self-remembering: “There is more than one meaning to the term Self-remembering because of its depth and breadth. The first meaning is that Self-remembering is a state, specifically, the third state of consciousness … [where] we can receive influences from the higher centers, or the Kingdom of Heaven within us … The attributes of the third state are self-awareness, individuality, a degree of will, consciousness, and Real I. … She goes on to explain the practice of Self-remembering: “The practice of Self-remembering is an exercise in which you lift yourself up internally, above the thoughts, emotions, and traffic of everyday concerns and psychological activity into a place of silence and stillness. The traffic is going on below you but you are not engaged in it in any way. You don’t acknowledge it or even observe it and you don’t contend with it. For a moment you are above it, untouched by it in quiet receptivity.
“Then there are degrees of Self-remembering that every Work practice embodies. This definition means to bring consciousness of the Work to the experience of incoming impressions. it means to apply the Work ideas to yourself when you experience incoming impressions … Every Work practice is a degree of Self-remembering because each carries a taste of, and briefly touches, Real I” (The Work: Developing Higher Consciousness Newsletter, September & November 2019).
Self-remembering is the third step of the fundamental triadic movement of practices in the Work, the first two being self-observation and non-identification. Each is to be practiced, using all three centers, at the moment of taking in an impression in order for complete digestion of the impression to take place.
From a spiritual perspective, we understand and qualify the state and practice of Self-remembering as Self-remembering in Christ, and as such, there is a quality of both diminishment and expansion. We are aware that, as St. John the Baptist said, “I must decrease; Christ must increase” (John 3:30). This quality of being is what the mystics often refer to as our oneing in Christ, wherein we are deeply present to the abiding union that is, as Gurdjieff said, “holding both ends of the stick at the same time”: the human and divine.
Then something wondrous happens as Maurice Nicoll explains: “Through Self-remembering we come under new influences which otherwise cannot reach us. If you feel the extraordinariness of your own existence, if you feel the miracle of your body, of your consciousness, of the world that surrounds you, if you begin to wonder who you are, then you are in the state necessary for Self-remembering. … Look at your hands, do you know what they are or how they move? Or, look at the trees and ask yourself how it is you see them, and many other things of similar nature. In all this, the sense of mystery is in us, the sense of the miraculous. … You can find it here, now at this moment” (Commentaries, “Self-Remembering,” Jan. 27, 1945, Vol. 2, p. 601).