Self-Observation, Inner Talking & Work Instrument


Jedi Master
There are many things that can be said about self-observation and what it is and what it is not. The whole of the Work starts from a man beginning to observe himself. Self-observation is a means of self-change. Serious and continuous self-observation, if done aright, leads to definite inner changes in a man.

Let us, first of all, consider self-observation in connection with a mistake often made about it. The mistake is the confusing of self-observation with knowing. To know and to observe are not the same thing. Speaking superficially, you may know you are sitting in a chair in your room, but can you say that you are actually observing it? Speaking more deeply, you may know you are in a negative state, but that does not mean that you are observing it.

A person in the Work said to me that he disliked somebody intensely. I said: "Try to observe it." He replied: "Why should I observe it? I don't need to. I know it already." In such a case, the person is confusing knowing with observing; that is, he does not understand what self-observation is. Moreover he has not grasped that self-observation, which is active, is a means of self-change, whereas merely knowing, which is passive, is not. Knowing is not an act of attention. Self-observation is an act of attention directed inwards - to what is going on in you. The attention must be active; that is, directed. In the case of a person you dislike, you notice what thoughts crowd into your mind, the chorus of voices speaking in you, what they are saying, what unpleasant emotions surge up, and so on. You notice also that you are treating the person you dislike very badly inside. Nothing is too bad to think of him or feel about him. But to see all this requires directed attention, not passive attention. The attention comes from the observing side, whereas the thoughts and emotions belong to the observed side in your-self. This is dividing yourself into two. There is a saying: "A man is first one, then two, and the one." The observing side, or Observing "I", stands interior to, or above, the observed side, but its power of independent consciousness varies, because it may be submerged at any moment. Then you are completely identified with the negative state. You do not observe the state but you are the state. You can then say that you know you are negative, but that is not to observe it. If the Observing "I" is supported by other 'I's which value the Work and recall it and wish to become more conscious, then it is not so easily submerged by the flood of negative things. It is then helped by - and is a part of - Deputy Steward. All this is quite different from merely knowing one is negative. Passive knowing can be said to be mechanical in contrast to self-observation which is a conscious act and cannot become mechanical. Mechanical self-observation has nothing to do with Work self-observation.

People not only confused knowing with the continuous act of self-observation but they mistake thinking for observing. To think is quite different from observing oneself. A man may think about himself all day and never observe himself once. The observation of one's thoughts is not the same as thinking. It should be clear now that knowing and thinking are not the same as observation.

The question is often asked: "What must I observe?" First, the Work explains carefully what you must begin to observe. But later a man must attain to fuller observation of himself - for a whole day, or a week - and see himself as an outside person. He must think what he would think if he met himself. He would, of course, cordially dislike this man who is himself. A man must observe everything in himself and always as if it were not him-self but IT. This means that he must say: "What is IT doing?" not "What am I doing?" He then sees now these thoughts going on in him, now these emotions, now these private plays and inventions, and so on, passing through him; one after the other. Next moment, of course, he goes to sleep again and takes part in them all. That is, he acts in the play he has composed and thinks it is real. He thinks he is the part he invented.

Let us consider this viewpoint further. A man must be able to say: "This is not me" to all his set pieces and his songs, to all the performances going on in him, to all the voices that he takes as his own. You know how sometimes just before going to sleep at night, you hear loud voices in your head. These are 'I's speaking. During the day, they are speaking all the time, only you take them as 'I', as yourself. But just before sleep, a separation takes place naturally, for connections are being broken between centres and between 'I's in order that sleep may be possible. Two or more 'I's can keep you from sleeping. So you hear them, as it were, as voices talking, just for a moment, because they are being separated by natural processes from you.

Inner separation means the power of not merely saying: "This is not I", but ultimately of actually perceiving it for oneself - perceiving that it is true, that "this is not I", not merely thinking it is so or trying to persuade oneself it is, or saying this is what the Work says.

When you are in an unpleasant state, if you observe yourself over some considerable time, you will notice that all sorts of different groups of unpleasant 'I's try to deal with it in succession and make something out of it. This is because negative 'I's live by being negative. Their life consists in negative thinking or negative feeling - that is, in providing you with unpleasant thoughts and feelings. It is their delight to do so for it is their life. In the Work, the enjoyment of negative states must be observed sincerely, especially the secret enjoyment of them. The reason is that if a man enjoys being negative, in whatever forms, and they are legion - he can never separate from them. You cannot separate yourself from what you have a secret affection for. The case actually is that you identify with negative 'I's through secret affection and so feel their enjoyment, for whatever you identify with you become. A man in himself is constantly transforming himself into different 'I's. He has nothing permanent, but by separation he can make something permanent. The line of separation is between what likes and what hates the Work.

Now we speak once more of observing talking. All rules are about talking, practically speaking, and how to deal with wrong talking. It is necessary to observe inner talking and from where it is coming. Wrong inner talking is the breeding-ground not only of many future unpleasant states but also of wrong outer talking. You know that there is in the Work what is called the practise of inner silence. The practise and meaning of inner silence is like this: first, it must be about something quite distinct and definite; and second, it is like not touching it. That is, you cannot practise inner silence in any vague general way, save perhaps as an experiment for a time. But you can practise it rigidly in regard to some distinct and definite thing, something you know and see quite clearly. Someone once asked: "Is practising inner silence the same as not letting something come into your mind?" The answer is no. It is not the same. What you are practising inner silence about is already in the mind and you must be aware of it, but you must not touch it with your inner speech, your inner tongue. Your outer literal tongue likes to touch sore places, as when a tooth hurts. So does your inner tongue. But if it does, the sore thing in your mind flows into your inner speech and unwraps itself as inner talking in every direction. You have noticed of course that inner talking always goes on in negative states and that it coins many unpleasant phrases, which suddenly find expression in outer talking, perhaps long after. In the Work we are told that it is necessary to be careful about wrong outer talking at first, and, later on, about wrong inner talking. Actually, wrong outer talking is mostly due to wrong inner talking. Wrong inner talking, particularly venomous and evil inner talking, and so on, makes a mess within, like excrement. They are all different forms of lying and this is why they have such strength and persistence. Lies are always more powerful than truth because they can hurt. If you observe wrong inner talking you will notice it is only half-truths, or truths connected in the wrong order, or with something added or left out. In other words, it is simply lying to oneself. If you say: "Is this quite true?" it may stop it, but it will find another set of lies. Eventually you must dislike it. If you enjoy it, you will never lessen its power. It is not enough to dislike liking it: you must dislike it.

All this belongs to the purification of the emotional life. Mechanically we only like ourselves, and so we dislike or hate those who do not like us. A development of being is not possible, and quite obviously so, unless the emotions cease to have only this basis of self-liking. External considering, in the Work, is putting oneself in the position of others. This is referred to in the Gospels:

"All things - whatsoever ye would that men should do unto you, even so do yet also unto them" [Matthew, 7:12]
This is one of the definite formulations in the Gospels of what in the Work is called External Considering. But a man must think very deeply what it says and perceive internally what it means, because it has an outer and inner meaning. If you say: "I always think of others," then observe it. It is probably a buffer. You do not notice perhaps that you say things, or you write things, which, if you received, you would not tolerate for a moment. This is one very interesting form of self-observation and it includes observing "inner talking". In yourself everyone else is helpless. You can, as it were, drag a person into the cave of yourself and do what you like with her or him. You may be polite naturally, but in the Work, which is all about purifying or organising the inner life, it is not enough. It is how you behave internally and invisibly to one another that really counts. This is very difficult to understand. You may think you know this already. But to understand - even to understand it - takes many years of work. When the inner corresponds with the outer and when the outer obeys the inner, then a man possesses a "second body". As we are, our outer life does not correspond with our inner life, and our outer life controls our inner. The inner grows by seeing the good of something. Recently here we were talking of what the saint, Cassian, says about a man being able to do the same thing for different reasons. A man may act from fear - fear of law, fear of reputation, fear of opinion. Then he acts from outside. Or he may act from ambition - and many other similar forms of self-interest. Or he may act from good - from seeing the good of acting so. This develops the internal man. Now all this can be a subject of self-observation. But even the first stages of self-observation have a certain effect. They let in rays of light into the darkness of our psychic life. It is the psychic life we have to think of in the Work. All the instructions of the Work are about one's psychic life, which is in chaos. In this way, self-observation becomes deeper, and the valuation of the Work becomes more and more internal. So the Work begins to act on Essence - on what is the real part of man.

Work on oneself is always the same. It does not matter where you are. You are always in contact with the Work if your inner attitude to it is right. If your inner attitude is right, the Work will teach you about what work on yourself means. If your inner attitude is wrong, it cannot, because you block the way. In all self-observation, if it is to become full self-observation, you must observe IT. That is, you must see all your reactions to life and circumstances as IT in you and not as 'I'. If you say 'I', then nothing can happen. The saying of 'I', the feeling of 'I', makes it impossible to change. If to every negative state you say 'I', then you cannot escape it. At first a man takes himself as one and says 'I' to all that happens in his psychic life. But in order to change he must become two. Then, later on, he may become one - a unity. The instrument of self-observation is like a knife that cuts us away from what is not us. If you begin to see what it means to say: "This is not 'I'", then you begin to use this instrument.

When you can really say: "What is IT doing?" instead of "What am I doing?" you begin to understand the Work. The Work is to make a new set of reactions or rather new ways of taking things. As long as you take ordinary things in a new way you begin to change. You cannot remain the same - and change. If you are always the same it means that you always react to life in the same way. You insist on your pound of flesh. The idea of change is not to be the same. The idea of the Work is to change oneself. The idea of self-observation is to separate from what one was by not going with what one observes. In this way self-observation is a means of self-change.

* * *

When you have begun to form in yourself the powerful mental instrument of this Work, you will find that wherever you turn it, you will catch new meanings. The Work forms in us a new instrument of reception, a new apparatus for receiving impressions, both from outside and from inside. The Work lies in parts that have to be joined together by means of understanding. Each part of the Work, each separate idea, each bit of the teaching, is exactly like the parts of, say, a radio-machine. The parts of a radio are, let us say, lying on a table and you can see them. If you know enough, if you understand what they are, you can put them together and then the instrument begins to work and you hear all sorts of invisible things that otherwise you could not hear. In the case of the Work, each part is not something physical, an outer object lying on a table, but is psychical - an idea, a thought, a direction, a formulation, a diagram, and so on. If all these parts fitted together by understanding, and valuation, the Work forms a new and organised apparatus in you. That is, you are newly organised. You have a new psychic organism in you. The Work is actually a whole and complete organism which is given little by little, part by part, but all these parts are parts of a true whole. If the Work is thus formed in you, you have a new thing, a new organised instrument in you. Even a single part of the Work, if taken in with valuation and understanding, will begin to work a change in you because it will transmit new influences. But the whole of the Work must be formed in a man. This can be thought of as another body - another organised thing in man - if the man lives the Work. Then it will control the man he was.

[Maurice Nicoll, Commentaries, pp. 213-217, Vol. 1]
Having finally had the time to read your whole post I realized that my above thread (Franz Bardon) should have been here at this spot. Even though his writing superficially glanced at, seem to advocate magic (trying to change things through higher dimensions by ritual behavior in the 3rd dimension) but looking at them in detail one notices that his required exercises are all about self-observation, which can lead to inner change, which can lead to change of the higher dimensional-self, which then can lead to change again in the 3rd density reality around us. That is why I am so interested in other peoples take on good old Franz.
While I was looking at his links I came across this sub-link:
I always love when two (or more) previously unrelated disciplines of study suddenly merge. I consider Robert McKee the definitive authority on teaching how to write fiction. William Mistele, the writer of the above essay (inside a Bardon web-page) suggests, as an exercise of self-observation, to look at ones own live within the framework of McKee’s Story structure.
I think that is quite a brilliant suggestion. Have a look and let me know what you think.

PS: Your very insight full above post: Is this your original writing or is there a source to that?
re: "PS: Your very insight full above post: Is this your original writing or is there a source to that?"

Sorry, somehow didn't see the source earlier.
Craig thank you, I have been worring this bone for some time and your post helped to solidify my intent
Thanks Craig,
There are a few things I need to ask. Between the reactionary "I" and the true "I" I am a bit confused. Hopefully not so confused that I cannot phrase a question or two properly. The "I" in reference to "Not the true I" I am guessing is the reactionary part of a person, an ego created sense of self? The other "I" I imagine is bidden the task of only observing the inner mechanicalness and listening in to the inner talking and try to understand from where it comes? Like, how have I concluded I do not like such and such? From where does this emotion stem? And try to get to the source of the judgement/reason and understand why? I am just a little confused.
Certainly there are walls and buffers inside helping along with the confusion, I observe in myself that I am not taking in the full concept. Would you care to elaborate some?
noise said:
And try to get to the source of the judgement/reason and understand why? I am just a little confused.
Certainly there are walls and buffers inside helping along with the confusion, I observe in myself that I am not taking in the full concept. Would you care to elaborate some?

You might find the following excerpt from Mouravieff's Gnosis Vol I of assistance here:

We shall return to the question of Consciousness further on, when we are better armed to sense and understand the true meaning of this word. As for the consciousness of the real 'I', we can now form a certain idea of this, even in its passive form. We know it as the only permanent point which exists within us, hidden behind our ever changing personality; always dragged along by the torrent of our thoughts, our feelings, our passions or sensations, which pass through it and involve the whole man in un- premeditated acts which he himself would later condemn. This permanent point is the impartial Referee within us who judges our own acts; the Referee whose soft voice is often obscured by inward uproar or by events. Although weak and passive, this evanescent form of the consciousness of the real 'I' is always just and objective.

The doctrine of sin and of our responsibility for our acts would have no meaning if, when we come face to face with temptation, the consciousness of the real 'I' did not give us a warning of danger. On the other hand, it is this presence within us which makes it possible for us to evolve esoterically in the deepest sense which, as we have already seen, is evolution towards Consciousness. Because the real ‘I’ does not manifest itself in man as he is born except in passive form, this inner Judge does not pronounce his verdict except where the personality itself submits its acts for his evaluation.

In modern life, contact with the real 'I' is rather exceptional. Man, however, pretends to be 'I', as if able to act at the level of consciousness appropriate to this 'I' whose attributes he would possess: attributes such as ability to judge the consequences of his acts, the constant exercise of a will of his own, the ability to do, and a bearing appropriate to a being who is consistent with himself. An objective examination of facts would be enough to belie these pretensions. Let us consider, for example, the way we commit ourselves to undertakings. It is clear that they are not always kept. If they are respected, it is often at the price of struggles within ourselves.
The challenge, as Nicoll points out so astutely, is not to grasp the concept intellectually but to "feel organically" (as Gurdjieff put it) its presence as ourselves; something that can only take place through seeing and weeding out our inner lies and wrong attitudes. While the idea of banishing all venomous and malicious thinking may seem like an impossible task, just remember - "A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step".

Or So I Think. :)
1,000 Thanks Ryan,
I believe that shed some light on my understanding. It was not so much that I wanted to understand if I grasped the concept so at to feel more sure of the concept within myself. I think how you elaborated on it was perfectly in tune to what I believe I was trying to understand.
Thanks Ryan,

Noise, I came across this small addition to Self Observation from Nicoll; it repeats some points as above, but I think it elucidates the "feeling" aspect:

Maurice Nicoll said:
Many of you think that self-observation consists merely in noticing that you feel moody, that you feel unwell, that you feel negative or bored or gloomy or depressed and so on. Let me assure you that this is not self-observation. Self-observation begins with the establishing of Observing 'I' in your own inner world. Observing 'I' is not identified with what it observes. When you say: "I am feeling negative," you are not observing yourself. You are your state. You are identified with your state. There is nothing distinct in you that is standing outside your state, something that does not feel your state, something that is independent of it, and is looking at it, somethign that has a quite different feeling from your state. If you say: "I wish I were not negative," this is quite useless. It is 'I' speaking the whole time. You are taking yourself as one mass. You are not dividing yourself into two, which is the beginning of Work on yourself. You are not saying: "Why is it negative?" but "Why am I negative?" You are taking it and you as the same. Try to understand what it means to divide yourself into two -- an observed side and an observing side -- and try to feel the sense of 'I' in the observing side and not in the observed side. This is the whole point. Remember that unless a man divides himself into two he cannot move from where he is. It is like this: we are all fastened inside to wrong things which we take as ourselves -- wrong thoughts, worries, etc. We take them as us. Work is to separate ourselves from them. This is the beginning of inner freedom. This is what the Work is all about. If you can observe your thoughts and worries, then you establish the starting-point of the Work in yourself. It is this observing side that is the new point of growth in you. So try to feel the sense of 'I' in Observing 'I' and not in the observed side. Try to be conscious in Observing 'I'.
Later Nicoll gives the example of walking down a street, and as you notice houses, trees, cars and other people passing, you do not ascribe the feeling of 'I' to them. They are "Not 'I'" and this is the division that the Observing 'I' should make internally. We are not identified with everything that is out there, but ordinarily are with everything that takes place within us - every thought, mood, desire etc.

Maurice Nicoll said:
For instance, you can observe the emotion of the beginning of anger. You can observe the thoughts connected with it. If your consciousness of the feeling of 'I' is stronger in Observing 'I' than in what it observes, then your anger and the thoughts accompanying it will not have full power over you. The whole inner event may die away. But let us suppose that some self-justifying 'I' comes onto the scene, that says your anger is right. What then happens? Answer that for yourselves. If you have never really observed yourself, then you will not be able to answer. But if you have, you will know exactly what happens. But the difficult remains - merely everyone imagines he or she is one person, a unity, and cannot realise that he is not one person, and everyone imagines he knows himself. It requires long work and great sincerity and particularly great evaluation of the Work and its meaning to realise that you are not one but many 'I's. Even your very pride will prevent you, unless you feel the existence of something greater that your pride. The doctrine of many 'I's is a stumbling-block for everyone. Yet it is true and is the secret that begins to make change of oneself possible. Now remember that if you identify with an 'I' in you, you give it force and you give it the sanction of yourself. That is, you sign its cheques in your name. Surely some of you must recognise unpleasant or rather, evil-minded 'I's? Then if you identify with them they become you. You will them. As soon as you extend your will to possess something, as soon as you take something into your desire, then it is the same as yourself, and so it works in you as yourself and you believe it.
In response to Nicoll's question about a self-justifying 'I', from my observation - we must remember that Observing 'I' doesn't necessarily immediately harbor all power. It is still very weak and I observe that it is only for certain periods throughout the day, that I actually remember the Work. In the beginning, it was very rare that I wasn't in a complete state of confluence. So when these self-justifying 'I' comes along, the Observing 'I' (from a lack of knowledge) becomes completely identified with it. It is habit, illusion and indulgence that "charms" the Observing 'I' from its position. Life teaches us that to be completely emerged in negative thoughts and emotion is okay, even admired to some degree. Well, I think it was Ouspensky that said: "We have the right not to be negative."

However, through persistent efforts, super efforts, and sincerity consciousness can be "transferred" to Observing 'I':

Maurice Nicoll said:
The power of Observing 'I' not to identify with what it observes varies with the kind of 'I' it observes. You must all have noticed this. The hypnotising power of suspicious 'I's like that of jealous or revengeful 'I's or envying 'I's is so strong that the independent power of Observing 'I' is often overcome. That is, Observing 'I' identifies with what it observes. This will not be the case so easily if Observing 'I' has behind it many strong thoughts about the Work -- that is, some definite Work 'I's -- and also strong feelings.
I hope these extracts are helpful.

Yes very helpful. I am though still partially confused with some of it. I mean I follow the concept and feel around in myself and think I am capable of grasping at feeling an inner observer.. trying to define it I 'think' would be pretty ignorant. In the statement about "It is still very weak," makes sense in the fact that my ability to tune in to it seems like a very weak link.
I will certainly be rereading this from time to time. A big thanks to you for taking out the time and putting all of this together which really has elaborated on it further and given me a better grasp on the concept. Looks like it's back to the old drawing board on some of my concepts I had imagined I was understanding. Again 1,000 thanks to you and Ryan for the help and thanks for bringing this concept of the work up.
Hi noise,

noise said:
Yes very helpful. I am though still partially confused with some of it. I mean I follow the concept and feel around in myself and think I am capable of grasping at feeling an inner observer.. trying to define it I 'think' would be pretty ignorant. In the statement about "It is still very weak," makes sense in the fact that my ability to tune in to it seems like a very weak link.
One of the main objects of the Work, as Nicoll above talks about, is to divide oneself essentially into "work-side" and "mechanical-side"; that is, to "observe himself from the angle of the work ideas." You don't necessarily have to "feel around in yourself," as you say because even then, as you are doing this, you could be observing "it". Perhaps there was a slight clashing of ideas between Nicoll and Mouravieff. My first reaction, although I cannot be specific, is that Mouravieff is subtley speaking of something different.

Nicoll further says this:

Maurice Nicoll said:
Unless the work is established in a man by means of Observing 'I', nothing can change in him.
Essentially, all that Observing 'I' is, is a sort of collection of work knowledge, or maybe an intellectual 'I' which is constantly remembering/referencing the work knowledge in regard to what is is seeing. But, to start we need to acquire the theory - which of course, is step by step, and starting with small things.

noise said:
I will certainly be rereading this from time to time. A big thanks to you for taking out the time and putting all of this together which really has elaborated on it further and given me a better grasp on the concept. Looks like it's back to the old drawing board on some of my concepts I had imagined I was understanding.
Well if you can, please share what it was you were "imagining", I'd be interested to learn - because of course, I am still learning about the Fourth Way and how to Work myself.

Best regards,
Hi Craig,
Some of my imaginings were based on the idea of identifying certain mechanical things I do. For starters and from what I believe to be my most common act is to cast judgement or draw conclusions. For instance I write something here and I 'expect' a reply. It took me some time to even recognize the fact that the world does not stop or function in the fufillment of my expectations.
I have sometimes acted or reacted by such expectation.
I imagined also that the part of me I consider myself was really beyond my concious self, in a way perhaps that is considered a split though in my own mind it was something completely seperate; A non-addressible part. Maybe by growing to understand the idea you have put forth better I may actually learn to become an objective viewer instead of a subjective reactor. I recently had thought to myself (imagined) I was making great strides of progress in identifying my reactionaryness. I am not certain and certainly can decieve myself but could it be that a person already (having a concious) is already to some degree (a weak link in the higher idea) working at strengthening the more objective link, though unaware of the scientific approach of it or how to recite that approach? For example I can't tell you specifically what I am grasping at in understanding the self-observation instrument I believe I make use of, so having one (not to imply such) and using it since childhood, could I still not understand the terminology since I never considered such terminology in defining it?
It's very interesting (understatement) considering self-trickery/deception on one hand and the knowledge or feeling on the other. Maybe I am using feeling to loosely here in trying to identify 'it' in myself. For me, again using the word imagining, 'it' (attempted definition) feels/appears to my own minds eye a something neglected, rarely given the floor in descision making.
I still think I am having trouble with the concept, though you have clearly elaborated on it, I don't think I have yet the capacity to be clear enough in trying to define what I am concluding to call an inner concious. Maybe I just made a hypoctrite of myself with that statement. Maybe the Inner Concious might serve as a term, I could use in so far as to say, 'it' sometimes voices strong opposition against stupidity (doing this or that) or reaction (acting out negatively). Hmm.. seems alot of food for thought here.
Does a person define the 'I' as the true self, not what I 'think' (my false self, reactionary..) I am but what 'it' (true 'I') knows Myself (false I) to be? Heh, the concept is getting clearer but I am having more difficulty trying to put the concept into words. Alot of this is getting through into understanding for me but I certainly have alot of feeling around inside. I use the word feeling around in context with being in touch with 'it' and using 'it' to make observations about what I think I am (observe/understand/make note the false I's).
I have reread this and I think it is clear enough to post, though maybe some of my interpretations of trying to show a better understanding of this idea is not verbalized very well. =\
Craig, thanks for the information you've posted. I had not come across that information before, so it's food for thought.

I have some questions either for you or for anybody willing to share further thoughts about self-observation:

In observing and thinking of "it" does the observer in any sense internally verbalize what it sees--"It is thinking about X.../It is experiencing anger..." (As I write, this also strikes me as a gross simplification, but I'll let it stand to see if it leads anywhere.)

Is it in any way similar, in other words, to zazen practices of cataloging thoughts during a sitting, i.e. thoughts about sex/food/anger/something someone said arise during the sitting, and you simply note "Thoughts about sex/food/anger/what so-and-so said, etc." (What information I've come across about this practice does not suggest as explicit a seperation between "it" and the Observing I suggested in Work literature.)

Is the Work version of self-observation also meant to be carried out in a spirit of non-judgment?

So many questions, Grasshopper...


Orffyreus said:
In observing and thinking of "it" does the observer in any sense internally verbalize what it sees--"It is thinking about X.../It is experiencing anger..." (As I write, this also strikes me as a gross simplification, but I'll let it stand to see if it leads anywhere.)
It seems that is the case, yes. Ouspensky says this in The Fourth Way:

Ouspensky said:
When we know ourselves better, this will help us to awake.
Q: Do you mean we must study our false personality by collecting material, observations?
A: By dividing yourself, by not saying 'I' to everything. You can really use the word 'I' only in relation to the more conscious part of yourself -- desire to work, desire to understand, realization of not understanding, realization of mechanicalness; that you can call 'I'. 'I' starts growing only in connection with study, with work on oneself; otherwise it cannot grow and there is no change.
But in addition, we have to remember what Nicoll said both in the quotation and again here - with further comment:

Maurice Nicoll said:
Now in seeing this other side of ourselves, this dark side, into which the Work tells us that we must penetrate and make it increasingly conscious to ourselves by self-observation, you must remember that the doctrine of 'I's is of the first importance in this process. We have to see this dark side but not to identify with it. We have to make it conscious but not take it as ourselves. This is a matter of great difficulty and we have to remind ourselves and be reminded constantly of this point that is so important. Remember that everything we are taught in the Work itself fits together and you cannot do this Work, say with one idea of it without taking in the others in conjunction. For example, you cannot take self-observation apart from the doctrine of 'I's, without doing yourself great harm. The reason is that if to everything you observe in yourself you say 'I' and so identify with it, the result will be complete confusion. You will become what you observe and this is fatal. We have to take our 'I's objectively. We have to see different things in us as we see different objects in a room. We do not take the table, chairs, the book, as ourselves. You must never say: "What I observe is 'I'", but you must know that this 'I' that you observe is in you. Now all this belongs to not identifying. [Nicoll, Commentaries, pp. 661]
Orffyreus said:
Is the Work version of self-observation also meant to be carried out in a spirit of non-judgment?
I think it is essential; judgement is a trait of the false personality - a sort of "murdering" of others as Nicoll describes it, as though one were superior. The Work speaks only of understanding - shining the light of consciousness onto the dark side of our being - and external consideration towards others.

Best regards,

P.S. If you haven't already, I would recommend reading In Search of the Miraculous and The Fourth Way by Ouspensky - available from Amazon. There are also plenty of Fourth Way websites which elucidate on these issues - and are probably essential to further understanding.
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