Self-observation over time can yield photographs, which Maurice Nicoll describes as treasures to be sought after by students of the Work. While the Work uses the term pictures for self-reflections that are always flattering to oneself (similar to snapshots we have kept while throwing away the ones that don’t make us look good), photographs are representations of ourselves over time that build Work-memory by making us conscious of all parts of us.


“A photograph is not a single observation but a series of observations of oneself over a period. One becomes aware of something separating from what hitherto was the undigested mass of oneself, covered over with advertisements and pictures of oneself. One is startled to catch a glimpse of this photograph which does not correspond with any of the pictures one has used of oneself. Pictures of oneself and photographs of oneself are totally different things. They can never agree. One has possibly an uneasy moment. It is as if a ray of light had got into the dark-room, where one spends one’s time in developing these often sad but always agreeable pictures, and thrown an image of something unknown on the wall. ‘So I am not what I thought,’ one mutters. Exactly. One now [may become] negative in many ways. For every moment of slightly increased consciousness, every experience of seeing oneself as machinery – that is, of awakening – is usually followed by a host of I’s that wish to keep you in their power and make you fall asleep again.”

– Maurice Nicoll, Commentaries, “Personal Realization That One Is A Machine,” March 22, 1947, Vol. 3, pp. 1011-12


“[M]omentary self-observation will not change you, but if you try sincerely to observe yourself two or three times a day, although you cannot alter yourself, you can at least become conscious of how you are behaving. This daily work on yourself builds up new memory which can begin to change you. It will begin to weaken your immediate reaction to the situation.”

– Maurice Nicoll, Commentaries, “Chief Feature,” Feb. 25, 1950, Vol. 4, p. 1372


So it is that a practice of self-observation, non-identification and Self-remembering can – over time – develop photographs or Work memories, which yield real change in the Work.

“[If] you have observed it, even while you do it, over a long time you get a Work memory laid down in you that by a kind of accumulation will make you less and less willing to do the thing that you have always done. This will make a curative force which results from self-observation. Do you understand that there are two memories – the ordinary memory of a person asleep that is almost always based on internal accounting and negative states, and another memory which the Work begins to form in you which is based on self-observation. This more conscious memory spread over many years is the memory that can cure you. Remember, the light can cure you. Light means consciousness. In the ordinary way, we live our lives without a ray of light entering at all. In other words, we are not conscious of what we do, we simply do it over and over again.”

– Maurice Nicoll, Commentaries, “Chief Feature,” Feb. 25, 1950, Vol. 4, p. 1371


“For a long time I had a powerful picture of myself that I was being good, helpful and self-sacrificing. But after a time in the Work, through the special memories arising from self-observation, and through a succession of ‘Time-body photographs’ I realized that this picture was false. Then of course one feels as if the bottom of oneself has been knocked out. Then you begin to change and the influences of the Work coming from Higher Centers that are always trying to change you can be heard and even actually perceived working on you internally. What is the reason? The reason is that you have lost your ordinary feeling of I which is centered, quite wrongly, in false personality. You may, and certainly do, feel lost. But you may be sure that this experience will not be allowed to happen to you until you have already got something in you from the Work that you can hold on to during the difficult time.”

– Maurice Nicoll, Commentaries, “Pictures of Oneself,” Nov. 5, 1949, Vol 4, p. 1338


“Now it is only by developing this consciousness in time-body that you can begin to see your chief feature. You will begin, as G. once said, to take photographs of your life, not snapshots, but time-photographs, and you will begin to see that all through your life you have behaved like this or like that. This will make you begin to see that you have always been a nuisance to other people, always been difficult or dishonest. Of course, your picture of yourself is quite contrary to such an idea. … Now a time-photograph will come only when the exercise of daily self-observation begins to show you things in yourself that have been controlling you the whole of your life. So you will come nearer to being about to see what your chief feature is. ”

– Maurice Nicoll, Commentaries, “Chief Feature,” Feb. 25, 1950, Vol. 4, p. 1372