Gurdjieff International Review

Going Toward Consciousness

Jeanne de Salzmann

Man has the possibility to awaken to the higher, to be. The means is the attention. In sleep the attention is taken. It must be freed and turned in another direction. This is the separation of “I” and “me.” This mobilization of the attention is the first step toward the possibility of self-remembering. With an attention that is voluntarily directed, we go toward consciousness.


We must see where our attention is. Where is our attention when we remember ourselves? Where is our attention in life? Order can be born in us only if we enter into direct contact with disorder. We are not in the disorder. We are the state of disorder. If I look at what I really am, I see the disorder. And where there is a direct contact, there is an immediate action. I begin to realize that my Presence is where my attention is.


I believe I need to pay attention when, in fact, I need to see and know my inattention.


A conscious attention means something that is between two worlds.


It is only by working to be present that my attention will develop.


I will always lose myself unless my attention goes both toward life and toward the inside.


Attention is the conscious force, the force of consciousness. It is a divine force.


Attention is the essential energy in man. And this energy can only appear when one is constantly occupied in seeing, in listening, in questioning. We must give our complete attention to the question in front of us. The attention will not be total if we seek an answer. Total attention is the process of meditation.


The power of divided energy is my power of attention.


It is an energy that connects me both with the source and with the outside world.


To see requires an attention that is active, not simply one produced by the shock of an impression. We need to realize that our usual attention is not in contact with what it is perceiving, and as a result we do not really see. For this contact, the attention must become active. We need to face its passivity, to realize our insufficiency, our nothingness, and to stay in front. This brings the activation.


To be present requires dividing the attention. Three-quarters must be kept inside, and only one quarter allowed to support the movement toward manifestation.


In my usual state, my attention is not voluntary. It is of low quality, without power, and flows passively toward the outside. But this attention has the possibility of being transformed. By the force of my attention actively turned inward, the movement of energy changes. Instead of going outside, it concentrates within until it forms the center of gravity of my Presence. My whole effort, my whole work, is to maintain this direction—to maintain a body so relaxed that the energy does not leave, a thinking turned toward myself so vigilant that its very presence sustains the stillness of my body, and a feeling of what wants to be recognized, of what is here, a feeling of “I.” It is an effort of attention coming from all parts of myself. In this effort I discover a way of functioning that is no longer passive, a work in which the functions are called to obey the movement of attention.


Presence requires an attention that is voluntary and sustained by my whole being. I must find in myself a wish and a power of attention, a will, that goes beyond my usual capacity. It is a “super-effort,” a conscious effort. I have to remain conscious of being a unity while I manifest, remaining related inside and at the same time relating myself outside. The effort is to realize the relation between the functions and the higher parts of the centers, which brings me the first feeling of unity, of being a whole. It requires a voluntary attention concentrated at the point of division of the forces, and held there. It depends on my feeling of “I,” my feeling of Presence. I need to know myself as a whole and to express myself as a whole, that is, to be a whole.


Fear only arises at the moment the thinking fixes on the past or the future. If our attention is in the active present, to think of yesterday or of tomorrow is simply inattention, an inattention that engenders fear. When we give our total attention to the present, when we are wholly present, fear does not exist.


Reality is here, only I have never put my attention on it. I live with my back turned to myself.


Only a conscious attention, which is the opening to a higher force, has the power to prevail over the automatism.


When the energy of attention has a different movement in each of the centers, there is no force capable of its own will. So I need another attention, a purer attention less burdened with the material of my thoughts and capable of having an action on the centers. This kind of attention does not come because it is made captive, nor by forcing—I cannot make it appear, just as I cannot force love to appear. Attention comes when it is needed, when it is called by a feeling of necessity. If I really see that I do not understand, that I have lost the direction and the meaning of my life, then at that very moment my attention is called to be here. Without it, I will never be able to be what I am. I do not have the necessary energy. But when I feel this absolute necessity, the attention appears.


I begin to see that my whole struggle, my possibility or impossibility, is a question of attention. One force calls my attention in order to act on me, and another force takes it and disperses it through my functions. But there is no one present in the middle to know what I want, nobody who feels responsible. The sensation of lack, of what is truly missing, is the most important thing. I alone can resolve the question ... if I will.


As we are, we have a limited capacity of attention, only that of the body, the head or the feeling. Nevertheless, we can make an effort of self-observation, a practice which strengthens the attention and shows us how better to concentrate.


My attention needs to be wholly occupied with two things: feeling and following the sensation of Presence, and, at the same time, dismissing the associations, that is, not allowing them to take me.


When our attention is strongly concentrated in front of the various movements of our thinking, feeling and body, this produces a substance similar to electricity. It is necessary to accumulate this material for a second body to be formed. The way is long, but the substance can be created in us by conscious effort and voluntary suffering.


The mind is my instrument of knowledge, but it will not know truth by some method or discipline, by suppressing or adding, or by changing. All it can do is be quiet, without any intention, not even to receive truth. All that matters is that my mind be free, without barriers, without conditioning. I need a state of extreme vigilance, asking nothing, expecting nothing, living the moment itself. This vigilance is the proper activity of the mind, its power. We call it attention. In this state I become pure attention. Then truth can be revealed to me.


It is absolutely necessary to have a continual sensation, a constant relation between the mind and the body. Otherwise I am taken by the automatism. This relation depends on a voluntary, active attention. When the relation is strong, there is a current of higher energy that passes through the head. The attention must be engaged voluntarily in maintaining the relation between the energies of the centers.

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These excerpts are from Jeanne de Salzmann’s book, The Reality of Being, Boston: Shambhala, 2010, pp. 22, 16, 21, 27, 43, 44, 51, 58, 94–96, 99, 132, 134, 160, 205, 221, 217, 220, 221, 242, 279–280, 289. Some sentences and phrases have been removed for brevity.

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Featured: Fall 2013 Issue, Vol. XII (1)
Revision: November 1, 2013