by Kenneth Walker

The Ark-Builders

Ouspensky began by saying that man attributed to himself a great many qualities that he did not actually possess. He believed that he had a permanent self, a master “I,” which integrated and controlled his thoughts, his emotions, and his actions. This was an illusion, for if one turned one’s attention inward, one would soon discover that instead of there being a single “I,” there were innumerable “I’s,” many of which said contradictory things. All that one saw when one watched one’s inner psychic processes was an endless procession of thoughts, sensations, imaginings and emotions, but nothing that could possibly be called a permanent and sovereign self.

“A man prides himself on being self-conscious, whereas even a short course of self-study will reveal the fact that one is but rarely aware of oneself, and then only for a few fleeting moments. Man believes that he has will, that he can ‘do,’ but this is also untrue. Everything happens in us in the same way that changes in the weather happens. Just as it rains, it snows, it clears up, and it is fine, so also, within us, it likes, or it does not like, it is pleased or it is distressed. We are machines set in motion by external influences, by impressions reaching us from the outside world.”

“Isn’t this id ea that man is only a machine the view of the behaviorist school of psychology?” I asked.

Ouspensky looked at me. “For them,” he said, “it is only  convenient theory which they fail to apply to themselves and to their own mental constructions. They see automatism in others, but not in themselves. For us it has got to become something far more real than this. Unless we realize with our whole being that we do not possess unity, consciousness and will, we will make no attempt to acquire them.”

“If we accept what you tell us–” began someone, but Ouspensky interrupted him.

“Accept nothinig,” he said. “Faith is not wanted here. Submit everything you hear from me to a personal test, to the test of self-observation. To accept something on trust when you can prove it or disprove it is laziness.”