Gurdjieff International Review

The Force of Attention

William Segal

Giving and receiving, God speaks to man.

Receiving and giving, man speaks to God.

Attention is the quintessential medium to reveal man’s dormant energies to himself. Whenever one witnesses the state of the body, the interplay of thought and feeling, there is an intimation, however slight, of another current of energy. Through the simple act of attending, one initiates a new alignment of forces.

Maintenance of a conscious attention is not easy. The movement, the obligations of day-to-day existence constantly distract. With no base of operations, no home in one’s organism, the attention serves random thoughts, feelings, and appetites which conflict and tyrannize each other.

Sensation of parts or the whole of the body can anchor the attention, provide it with a kind of habitat. The structure, becoming more sensitive, helps to unify attention, so it is less likely to veer into mental channels that consume its power. In turn, perceptions and sensations are quickened, insights are multiplied.

Opening to the force of attention evokes a sense of wholeness and equilibrium. One can glimpse a possibility of a state of awareness immeasurably superior to that of the reactive mechanism, an awareness which transcends one’s automatic subject/object mode of response.

Freely flowing, the concentrative, transforming effect of conscious attention brings the disparate tempos of the centers to a relatively balanced relationship. Thought, feeling, and sensing are equilibrated under this vibrant, harmonizing influence.

Attention is an independent force which will not be manipulated by one’s parts. Cleared of all internal noise, conscious attention is an instrument which vibrates like a crystal at its own frequency. It is free to receive the signals broadcast at each moment from a creative universe in communication with all creatures.

However, the attention is not ‘mine.’ In a moment of its presence, one knows that it does not originate entirely with oneself. Its source surrounded by mystery, attention communicates energies of a quality the mind cannot represent.

One needs to be at the service of conscious attention; one prepares for its advent through active stillness.

In quiet, tension-free moments, man’s structure is open to energy flows which are ordinarily blocked. In turn, these energies blend with previously received materials, to serve the higher in a wordless, nameless exchange.

Attention is not only mediating; it is transmitting. Giving and receiving, God speaks to man. Receiving and giving, man speaks to God. Just as man’s structure needs to be vivified by the infusion of finer vibrations, those very same vibrations require the mixing of coarse material for their maintenance. Without the upward transmission of energies through the intermediary of conscious attention, the universe would give in to entropy.

In man, the smallest deformation of a balanced attention closes down this two-way communication. Alone, the mind cannot maintain it. A relaxed body, too, is needed.

Midway between micro and macrocosmos, man has his part to play. Returning to the body is a gesture of opening to the attention which, beckoned, is ready to serve its cosmological function.1

Other Thoughts

The whole secret in life, whether it’s inner or outer work, is to give total attention to what one is doing now. If people would concentrate and really look and see how they’re working and give their total interest and attention to the moment or to the task at hand, it would make people more effective in living. It would feed them instead of depleting them. Generally we come back over and over again to the necessity of being here as totally as possible, no matter what you are doing. But we do need, also, engagement of the outer world. We need engagement of ourselves with others, and with confrontations. Life is a question of challenge and response.2

Attention is the magnet that draws energy to the right places, and creates harmonious order.3

Sometimes when, through shock, dispersed attention is suddenly collected, one comes to an abrupt awakening, glimpses the relationship between energy and attention. Impressions are received differently, perceptions are wider and sharper. Unexpectedly, another side of oneself is revealed. The value of existence, the existence of all living things, takes on new meaning.4

In each life there are passages which have a special poignancy. Lit up with vivacity, they are invariably marked by concentrated attention.5

With attention one sees new relationships.6

Watchfulness at the moment of receiving an impression; the deeper an impression enters, the greater its power to work.7

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


1 William Segal, The Structure of Man, Vermont: Green River Press, Stillgate Publishers, 1987.

2 William Segal, A Voice at the Borders of Silence, New York: Overlook Press, 2003, pp. 246–247.

3 Opening: Collected Writings of William Segal, New York: Continuum, 1998, pp. 24.

4 Ibid., p. 24.

5 Ibid., p. 28.

6 Ibid., p. 28.

7 Ibid., p. 28.