Gurdjieff International Review

A Two-Way Attention

Jean Vaysse

Right self-observation, leading to valid findings, requires and is, in fact, dependent upon the participation of three factors, one might say three forces; and the quality of the result, that is to say, the quality of the observation, depends on the quality of each of these three factors. They are: I who observe, face to face with what I observe within myself; and nothing takes place unless a third factor is also there between them, namely an attention which connects the two...

The attention we need is an attention from another level, which at the same time as observation is going on takes into account everything that we are. It is a two-way attention, an attention divided in two, and it entails an attitude that is very different from our usual one. We do not naturally have any of this kind of attention except accidentally in certain moments of surprise or danger when it is part of a flash of consciousness. But it is possible for us “artificially,” through a special effort, and it can be developed in us through appropriate exercises.1

Collection of Attention Is Necessary

Sophia Ouspensky

For consciousness, collection of attention is necessary. Attention is as oil in the lamp. Consciousness is the light. Where there is consciousness things are illuminated.

All work begins with the control of attention.

In connection with the control of attention, much could be learned from the movements. When attention has been collected in the right place the whole body must be reviewed for wrong tensions. When sufficient energy has been saved it produces a kind of light which pervades the whole body.

It is wrong to think that God created man. God created on a large scale. He provided man with material to develop himself if he so wished. Man has in him the machinery for development, but as everything in the Universe is limited as regards the amount of energy allotted to it, so man can only grow if he uses his energy rightly. The whole struggle centers round one point, direction of attention.

Work involves giving account to oneself for everything and trying to think always in terms of attention. It is desirable to maintain attention as long as one can and to relax as may be necessary. Even the relaxation must be under one’s control.2

An Effort Must Be Made With All Centres

A. R. Orage

The reading of the book Beelzebubs Tales To His Grandson is an exercise in sustained attention, together with imaginative understanding. To understand, an effort must be made with all three centres.

Each time we make an effort to bring our attention back to ourselves, to what we are doing, to remember ourselves, the centres become connected.3

“Begin With Small Things”

C. S. Nott

Gurdjieff also spoke about being able, later on, to divide our attention into two or even three parts. But when someone asked how this could be done, he said, “You cannot do this yet. Later we will speak about it. People in general have no real attention. What they think of as attention is only self-tensing. First you must strive to acquire attention. Correct self-observation is possible only after you have acquired a measure of attention. Begin with small things.”4

In speaking about associations Gurdjieff said we must let them flow, without them we would die; associations are a stick with two ends, a good end and a bad end. Some psychologists have called the flow of associations ‘the stream of consciousness,’ really, it is the stream of unconsciousness. We must be aware all the time and not let our attention be caught up in them or we shall begin to daydream and fantasy, which is a sin.5

Attention’s Closest Kin

P. L. Travers

Many are those down the ages who, sorrowing for their own lack of watchfulness, have too late learned what it means to pay attention, that it is not something that simply happens, nor to be had by chance...

If man has within him the potential, if only as a germ, to share in the consciousness of the universe, even to glimpse at moments certain aspects of the Unknown (behold, I show you a mystery!) above all, to learn to know himself, can this be done without attention?

And what of that word “pay”? First of all the whole person, all the functions closely cohering—thought, feeling, bodily sensation—must be ready, vigilant, alert; and to preface this ingathering there must be present in us—one can sum it up in one single word: attention’s closest kin, intention.6

The Best Thing We Can Give Children

Nathalie de Salzmann

Attention is the most important faculty that needs to be developed in children. To teach children to put their attention on something and keep it there for a certain length of time is one of our primary goals. How to do this if we ourselves are inattentive? Since we are going to be demanding the attention of the children, we need to train our own attention, collect it, put it on something or someone, and keep it there. Small children are more sensitive because they live more inside themselves, and this sensitivity allows them to receive our attention, which is the best thing we have to give them. It is an energy that emanates from us and warms and nourishes them like a ray of sunshine.7

Internal Attention

Maurice Nicoll

To remember oneself is a conscious act, a conscious placing of ‘I’, requiring attention to begin with...

“When you are identified with your inner state and observe it, are you still fully identified?” How can you be? ...

If a man divides himself into an observing side and an observed side—that is, becomes two—then he begins to be able to shift his position, to change internally. Do you understand the depth of this idea? It is the way out of the prison of oneself.


Directing one’s attention to the Intellectual or Emotional Centre demands internal attention. Internal attention begins with self-observation. Putting consciousness into the muscle-tension of the body is both internal and external attention.8

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Copyright © 2013 Gurdjieff Electronic Publishing
Featured: Fall 2013 Issue, Vol. XII (1)
Revision: November 1, 2013


1 Jean Vaysse, Toward Awakening: An Approach To the Teaching Left by Gurdjieff, New York: Arkana, 1988, p. 36.

2 Robert S. de Ropp, Conversations with Madame Ouspensky, San Francisco: Far West Editions, 1995, pp. 9, 10, 11, 15, 20–21.

3 C. S. Nott, Teachings of Gurdjieff: The Journal of a Pupil, NY: Samuel Weiser, 1962, pp. 131, 161.

4 Teachings of Gurdjieff: The Journal of a Pupil, p. 66.

5 C. S. Nott, Further Teachings of Gurdjieff: Journey through this world, London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1969, p. 81.

6 P. L. Travers, Sunflower, Parabola Magazine, Vol. XV, No. 2, Summer 1990, p. 84.

7 Nathalie de Salzmann de Etievan, Not To Know Is Wonderful: A Handbook for Teachers, p. 11.

8 Maurice Nicoll, Psychological Commentaries, London: Vincent Stuart, 1957, pp. 169, 1253.