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For the Week of May 7 - 13:  Multiplicity
Hilma af Klint, Group IX SUW, The Swan No. 10, 1915
Every normal cosmos, whether a man,
a planet or a star, has its own I,
the center of its selfhood,
by which it is conscious of itself.
In ordinary man, this I,
the instrument of individuality,
is yet to be formed.
It can grow only in Essence.
- Beryl Pogson, Brighton Work Talks

We have heard that the basic daily practice of awakening and transformation in the Work is the threefold practice of self-observation, non-identification and Self-remembering, initially practiced separately, but ultimately realized as a triadic unfoldment giving rise to ever-deepening awakening as it is consistently practiced. 
Awakening to what? Awakening first to oneself and the multiplicity of selves that all speak in the name of I. Then comes the recognition of the insubstantiality of all of these personality fragments which might be more appropriately expressed as "i's" since they do not carry the presence and nobility of the I, the instrument of individuality, given as birthright. This leads to the awakening and search for Real I which is at first given in glimpses. And, finally, the possibility of a state of "no-I." But, let’s not jump too far ahead. Let us first address: What is this multiplicity?
We are legion …
My name is legion,
for we are many.
- Mark 5:9
The multiplicity, also known as the "doctrine of I's," is the recognition that the human condition is one of fragmentation of self – that there is not a single, unchanging, unified I within ourselves that speaks, thinks, feels, acts, and moves, but a myriad of small I's each with its own mechanical impulses, reactions, sensations, preferences and genetically and culturally-acquired programs for happiness. This multiplicity describes the state of sleeping humanity.
"How many I's have we got in us?' [Ouspensky] was once asked, 'Have we 20 or 30?' O. replied: 'We have hundreds of thousands of I's in us, only because of the action of buffers we do not see them as distinct but retain our belief that we have only one I that always acts and feels in the same way. This is Imaginary I. It is this imagination that one has one I, this Imaginary I, that prevents us from changing."
 - Maurice Nicoll, Commentaries, "The Doctrine of 'I's," January 13, 1943, Vol. 2, p. 594
Why does it matter?
"The lack of unity in a man is the source of all his difficulties and troubles. … [and he] … does not work harmoniously as a whole. Man, in regard to his inner state, is a multiplicity, and from one angle in this teaching, this inner multiplicity is spoken of in terms of I's or egos in a man. Man has no one permanent I but a host of different I's in him that at each moment take charge of him and speak out of him as if in his voice: and from this point of view, man is compared with a house in disorder in which there is no master but a crowd of servants who speak in the name of the absent master. … [I]t is the greatest mistake that can be made either to suppose that oneself or others have one permanent unchanging I – or ego – in them. A man is never the same for long. He is continually changing. … [One part] does not like telling lies … [and another part] likes to lie and so on. To take another person as one and the same person at all times, to suppose he is one single I, is to do violence to him and in the same way is to do violence to oneself. A multitude of different people live in each of you … which it is necessary to observe, and try to get to know, otherwise no self-knowledge is possible – that is, if one really seeks self-knowledge and not invention and imagination about oneself."
- Maurice Nicoll, Commentaries, "On Additional Means of Self-Observation," June 6, 1941, Vol. 1, pp. 19, 20
How to begin dealing with the multiplicity?
"At first, it is easier to observe I's acting on your thoughts, giving you certain kinds of thoughts. You observe that you are thinking in a certain way about someone. This is an I that is thinking, that you are taking as yourself. Or, say that you are thinking about your life: this is again an I and you are taking it as yourself. When you do not see this trick that is constantly being played on you, you take all these thoughts as you. You think: 'I am thinking this.' Or, you say: 'This is how I think.' You do not see that something is thinking for you and that you are not thinking at all. You hear the thoughts of these I's as if it were you who were thinking them. In fact, you think that you think. Now better I's can see worse I's but worse I's cannot see better I's. What is higher can see what is lower, but what is lower cannot see what is higher. When you begin real observation of your thoughts you can begin to see certain kinds of thoughts that you do not wish to accept, say, about other people, or about yourself. Now if you think that these thoughts are you, or if you say: 'I think this,' then you make one of the greatest mistakes you can make in this Work. You give these thoughts power over you because you identify with them, so you simply go with them without realizing what the Work is continually teaching – i.e., that you must practice inner separation. If you take everything that happens in the sphere of your thoughts as I then you cannot practice inner separation. …
"Now as regards the sphere of the emotions – here again many I's exist in us that bring about changes in our emotional states. Just as I's transmit thoughts into our minds so do I's transmit feelings into the sphere of our emotions. These I's affect the emotional state directly and scarcely touch the thinking. Some of these I's can exhaust us, make us lose confidence, make us depressed, low-spirited, and so on. Yet they are I's acting on us and nourishing themselves at our expense. …
"When you realize beyond any doubt that you have different I's in you, when you can hear them speaking or notice them working in your emotions, and yet remain separate from them, you begin to understand the Work on its practical side. You begin to understand the first line of the Work – on yourself."
- Maurice Nicoll, Commentaries, "The Doctrine of I's," January 13, 1943, Vol. 2, p. 595
Through three-centered self-observation, we can begin to recognize and non-identify with the thoughts, emotions and accompanying bodily sensations associated with the various I's in the multiplicity. As the act of Self-remembering deepens into the state of Self-remembering, we begin to open to the realization of our divine identity.
"Gurdjieff says that we must learn to distinguish between I and 'It.' What is I? We can offer no evidence for individuality, consciousness and will, the triad or triangle of which I is composed. Yet we can have, in time and with Work, a realization of something which is not just organism. The birth of 'I' and its development has been the subject of allegorical teachings in all religions, and it was taught in the Mysteries. It plays a great part in the story of Jesus.
'If one of thine I's offend thee, pluck it out.'
'If thine I be single thy whole body shall be full of light.'
'Be still, and know that I am God.'
'I Am that I Am.'
I is under the Law of Three.
'It' is under the Law of Seven."
- "Orage's Commentary on 'Beelzebub,'" cited in C. S. Nott, Teachings of Gurdjieff, A Pupil's Journal
"Who am I? They often tell me
I stepped from my cell's confinement
Calmly, cheerfully, firmly,
Like a Squire from his country house.
"Who am I? They often tell me
I used to speak to my warders
Freely and friendly and clearly,
As though it were mine to command.
"Who am I? They also tell me
I bore the days of misfortune
Equably, smilingly, proudly,
Like one accustomed to win.
"Am I then really that which other men tell of?
Or am I only what I myself know of myself? …
"Who am I? This or the other?
Am I one person today and tomorrow another?
Am I both at once? A hypocrite before others,
And before myself a contemptible woebegone weakling?
Or, is something within me still like a beaten army
Fleeing in disorder from victory already achieved?
"Who am I? They mock me, these lonely questions of mine.
Whoever I am, Thou knowest, O God, I am thine!
- Dietrich Bonhoeffer, "Who Am I?"
- Can you hear, feel and sense the multiplicity of I's within? In observing the multiplicity and its mechanical playing out in your daily life, can you now feel compassion towards others, knowing that they too are a multiplicity? In your interactions with others this week, practice seeing multiplicity and, in so doing, "let them off the hook" instead of taking offence or judging.

- All are encouraged and welcome to attend tonight's class for a review of these teachings and how they are landing in you: 7pm Central Time via Zoom only. 
  1. Click on this link and Zoom should open automatically on your laptop or tablet:, or
  2. Open Zoom, click on Join Meeting and enter this meeting ID: 996-101-9778
Resources for Further Study:

- The glossary of terms may be found here.  The class content archive is organized by class and class date.  And an archive of previous emails may be found here
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