On one occasion at the beginning of a meeting Gurdjieff put a question to which all those present had to answer in turn. The question was; “What is the most important thing that we notice during self-observation?”
Some of those present said that during attempts at self-observation, what they had felt particularly strongly was an incessant flow of thoughts which they had found impossible to stop. Others spoke of the difficulty of distinguishing the work of one centre from the work of another. I had evidently not altogether understood the question, or I answered my own thoughts, because I said that what struck me most was the connectedness of one thing with another in the system, the wholeness of the system, as if it were an “organism,” and the entirely new significance of the word to know which included not only the idea of knowing this thing or that, but the connection between this thing and everything else.
Gurdjieff was obviously dissatisfied with our replies. I had already begun to understand him in such circumstances and I saw that he expected from us indications of something definite that we had either missed or failed to understand.
“Not one of you has noticed the most important thing that I have pointed out to you,” he said. “That is to say, not one of you has noticed that you do not remember yourselves.” (He gave particular emphasis to these words.) “You do not feel yourselves; you are not conscious of yourselves. With you, ‘it observes’ just as ‘it speaks’ ‘it thinks,’ ‘it laughs.’ You do not feel: I observe, I notice, I see. Everything still ‘is noticed,’ ‘is seen.’ … In order really to observe oneself one must first of all remember oneself” (He again emphasized these words.) “Try to remember yourselves when you observe yourselves and later on tell me the results. Only those results will have any value that are accompanied by self-remembering. Otherwise you yourselves do not exist in your observations. In which case what are all your observations worth?”
Adapted from: P. D. Ouspensky, In Search of the Miraculous, Fragments of an Unknown Teaching, Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1950, Ch. 7.