"Man is capable of inner change. He is an experiment, but he is of no importance in the total Universe unless he begins to fulfill the experiment that he represents. The Universe is a series of stages, of levels, of degrees, extending vertically from the highest to the lowest, and everything is at a certain point in the Universe. Man, as a child of the Universe, as a product of it, bears in himself the stamp of the Universe—that is to say, Man has scale in him. Man is born as a self-evolving organism. He can rise from one level to another in this vertical scale. And that is why there is such a thing as esoteric teaching. All the knowledge belonging to this system is about the possibility of man's undergoing an inner transformation and rising in the scale of being. In the Christian religion, for example, this is called union with God. To pass from one point in the vertical line to a higher point, a thing must be transformed—become different from what it was at a lower level. It is so necessary to gain some preliminary conception of the significance of this vertical direction, that does not lie ahead of us, in the future of Time, in next year or the next century, that does not lie either in Space or in Time, but lies in another dimension—namely, above us. Now Man asleep is a man or woman who is always governed by various passions and moods. People are hypnotized by their passions to begin with. They do not realize that they are not free but governed by different kinds of passions. As long as the passion works in you, you are asleep and in certain cases can even do murder under the influence of the passions that play on humanity. External life hypnotizes us by its events. What one sincerely wishes to do is usually quite different from what one does from the bravura of life. All these things keep us asleep. But what keeps us asleep most of all are our domestic quarrels, our domestic difficulties, our thinking that others are conscious. As a rule, a hypnotized man marries a hypnotized woman and then their married life consists in overcoming their self- hypnotism, if they are not in the Work, with bad results. A man expects a woman to be like that, and a woman expects a man to be like that. The greatest hypnotism in life is that you think you will find your goal in life."
Why Work on Ourselves
"Why should we work on ourselves? Why should we observe ourselves? Why should we separate from negative emotions, from internal considering, and all the rest of it? This question presents itself at intervals to everyone who is in this Work. Why should I try to observe and separate from negative emotions? Why shouldn’t I talk scandal? Why shouldn’t I expend my negative emotions all day long on everyone whom I meet? Why should I have to do something else apart from behaving as I naturally would? Why should I have to try to change my behavior towards life, towards people, toward circumstances and events? Why shouldn’t I hate when I feel like hating? Why shouldn’t I murder if I feel like murdering? Why shouldn’t I always say just what I like and behave as I wish to?
"Cause me to know the way wherein I should walk."
"Now this Work is about awakening from sleep. What is this sleep? When you are in a passion you behave in a certain way. You may in this passion do untold harm by what you say and what you do. I would ask you, if you are in this passion and behave as you feel from this passion, are you awake or are you asleep? Are you hypnotized? You may afterwards realize you said wrong things or did wrong things and wonder why, but while you were under the hypnotism of this passion you thought that everything you said or did was right. When the passion is over you may feel that you may have said too much or done too much. This means that in ordinary life you realize to a certain extent that you were under hypnotism–you were asleep. What hypnotizes you and puts you to sleep is the passion. At the same time, you at once justify this passion and how you behaved in it and say it was perfectly right. Yes, self-justifying means putting yourself in the right always. People of coarser psychology don’t ever realize that. People of finer psychology feel a twinge of regret. But instantly they justify themselves–put themselves in the right–but very few people realize that they really cannot trust themselves to this moment of passion.
Applying the Work
Notice criticizing: Other people, yourself, your job, your responsibilities, your friends, enemies, family, waitress, teacher, the food you eat, your physical condition, your health, your accommodations, the weather, political figures, clothes, hairstyles, behaviors that annoy you, movies, music, or anything at all. Try to notice the psychological 'taste' of this activity; how it makes you feel inside; if it expresses the character you were hoping to have. Notice if it's contagious. Do others chime in with their criticisms, too? At the end of your day make a list of everything you criticized that day.
When you try to establish a perspective of observation within yourself, it should be above and behind your activity in the world and your inner reality of thoughts and feelings, able to see both at the same time. For the most part, your attention is all caught up in the external world and its changing events. The divided part of your attention should be directed inwards towards your emotions, states and thoughts and psychological activities, but not to the exclusion of being able to observe your personality or to the extent that it cripples your personality. With practice, you should be able to behave as you normally do in your life while being aware of your internal reality.
Don't try to do more than this until you have mastered it and the observing part of you is an impartial passive witness, seeing your states but not being your states, seeing your personality but not being your personality; not reacting or justifying yourself but observing reactions and justifying happening as they will. You won't be able at first to not have any reactions to what self-observation shows you, but don't become your reaction. Observe it happening and remember it.
Questions & Answers
Question: Why should one begin with practicing Divided Attention? It has been my experience that one must first be able to direct their attention rather than having it taken away from them (daydreaming, identification, etc.). So, how can you practice Divided Attention if you don't have real attention?
Dividing your attention is directing your attention in a specific way. Everyone has some degree of attention. It's just that it's scattered and constantly changing directions. But people do focus on work, reading, entertainment, hobbies, etc. all the time. It may not be a conscious act, but it is directed attention. What the Work asks you to do is to focus part of your attention on one single thing: your inner reality. If you want to do pale exercises like seeing how long you can focus your attention on the second hand of your watch, you will indeed verify that it is nearly impossible to keep your thoughts from wandering for even a minute or two. It shouldn't take more than once or twice to learn that lesson.
But what if, for the sake of experimentation, you intentionally and repeatedly turn some bit of your attention that you can control toward the same thing, starting as an awareness of your inner state in relation to your outer circumstances in the moment. Maybe you're meeting someone new when you remember to observe your inner state; for a moment or two, you see yourself smiling, shaking hands, talking, etc. and at the same time you are aware that inside you are feeling nervous or insecure, superior, inconvenienced, delighted, interested, afraid, sexually attracted, totally bored, or any other possibility.
The Work asks you to note your state. This indeed requires great effort. That's why it is called Work. But it is possible to do it and you don't have to take my word for it. You can verify it for yourself through your own experience. Of course, you have to make the effort of self-observation repeatedly in order to build something strong enough inside you to observe yourself as a regular activity. This will take much work and a long time. So, evaluate your aim in undertaking the Work. If you decide to do this Work, your efforts will create a response that enlightens you.
Question: You have said that we should look for the I's that are creating states. I have made notes showing two columns. On one side I wrote down a state or mood I observe in myself. On the other side I wrote down what I consider to be the "I" behind this state... example: Resentment --> "I don't like being criticized"... example: Joy --> "I like music", "I like singing"... example: Frustration --> "I don't like not getting answers"...? And what should I be looking for in this? It seems to come down to likes and dislike
What you should be able to see is that this is functioning like a stimulus-response machine which we all are before we awaken. You have this experience followed by that response. They are your habitual responses to these recurring events. All of these 'I's and feelings are part of your personality. They are the lowest level of functioning of the emotional center which is almost exclusively concerned with "I like", "I don’t like" emotions and entirely mechanical. It requires no attention. It works automatically. Your aim in the Work is to awaken from this mechanical state so that you can choose what emotional response most expresses your authentic non-mechanical Being. And so that you become more than just a stimulus-response organism, a slave to your personality and external events, incapable of free choice.