Separation and Unity
A newborn child looks out and does not separate himself from what he sees; his gaze takes in all, refuses nothing. A few years later, the sense of “I” develops and a child discovers and makes known his wishes from this new sense of identity. Not only one ‘I’ but many ‘I’s develop, each with their likes and dislikes, preferences and denials. We are no longer joined with what surrounds us, but separated and fragmented.
In the Fourth Way, a student is asked to discover all sides of himself, to re-member these diffuse parts and forge a temporary unity that enables him to connect with his true and eternal identity, real ‘I’. Paradoxically, first comes work on separation this time intentionally—not according to what we like and dislike in ourselves, but according to what is real within us and what is not. Those attracted to this work may already have experienced a taste of who they truly are. Such flashes of higher states serve the work of separation, for when the taste of real ‘I’ is known, correct separation can begin.
strengthen the weaker side. As I said, this separation is the basis of all work on
oneself. Unless this idea is understood, nothing can be attained, in everything
one must start from that.” Peter Ouspensky, Fourth Way
What is not real within us? Anything that we can observe from that higher state, for only the higher can see the lower. The many ‘I’s, the states of imagination and identification, all aspects of the waking sleep that rule us in ordinary moments, and distract us from ourselves. Our imaginary picture of ourselves, honed over the years, is another obstacle, for it is rarely based on who we truly are.
When we taste our true self—a higher state above the many ‘I’s—we experience unity, however briefly. We work to remember (and return to) this state, and keep it separate from the many ‘I’s that assail us. With practice, we can remain in this higher state, experiencing our true self, separating more entirely iand for longer moments. At this point, the ‘I’s can be dimly heard, but do not distract us.
But can we do this right away? Knowledge is needed to separate correctly.
At first, we may witness one of the lower functions from the point of view of another lower function (such as the intellectual center watching and commenting on sensations or emotions). Coming to the correct location of the true self which observes without comment, praise, or blame, but with detachment and love, is vital. The intellectual part of our own instinctive center has its own seat of observation, but lacks emotional awareness or love. A common trap is to use this part for self-observation, for this side cannot develop.
Right separation includes emotional awareness, for the true self has an understanding that the moment is perfect, and that all things are well. Even suffering can be used by this higher state, as a means of remaining awake. Recognizing this state, coming to know it as a lover, we end in union with our world and the true self.
Although we were born one with the world, we lost our original unity, splintering into fragments which do not know each other. Our task is to re-member our fragmentary selves into a working whole, which something higher within us can begin to use and direct. Here the circle completes.
still-point of the Tao. At the still point in the center of the circle one can see
the infinite in all things.” Chuang Tzu
We return not to the undifferentiated unity of infancy, but to a joyful awareness of who we truly are, taking our place in the universe to see how we might be of service to what is happening in this very moment. We must be small again to be reborn into this higher state. Correct separation is essential for this rebirth. Each moment invites us in. Only what is real can cross the threshold.