Maurice Nicoll (1884 – 1953) was a Scottish psychiatrist and author. He studied science at Cambridge University before going to St. Bartholomew’s Hospital and then to Vienna, Berlin and Zurich where he became a colleague of Carl Jung. After his Army Medical Service during the first World War, in Gallipoli and Mesopotamia, he returned to England to become a psychiatrist. He was first a pupil of G. I. Gurdjieff, and then of P. D. Ouspensky, before getting permission to start his own study groups in 1931. He is best known for his Psychological Commentaries on the Teaching of Gurdjieff and Ouspensky, a multi-volume collection of talks he gave to his study groups, but he also authored several other books and stories, including The Mark, The New Man and Living Time.
Quotes by Maurice Nicoll…
Man cannot understand more because he is in a state of inner disorganization. The quality of his consciousness is too separative and coarse. Yet he starts out in his investigations of the universe without any idea that he will be unable to penetrate beyond a certain point because he himself is an unsuitable instrument for this purpose.
Man has inner necessities. His emotional life is not satisfied by outer things. His organization is not only to be explained in terms of adaptation to outer life. He needs ideas to give meaning to his existence. There is that in him that can grow and develop — some further state of himself — not lying in “tomorrow,” but above him.
The path of self-knowledge has this aim in view, for no one can know himself unless he turns inwards away from sense-perception, and unless he learns what to seek for. By oneself this is impossible. A man cannot get to know himself alone. His imagination stands in the way. There is no sufficient point in himself from which he can view himself aright, no sufficient knowledge. The establishing of this point is a matter of long work upon oneself with the assistance of those in whom this point is already established.
If we could penetrate to the eternal reality of our own being we would find the one and only solution for every situation — in the right sense of our own existence — primarily in itself.
Along this sham path life is chiefly a dressing-up, an emptiness, a make-believe, in which we seek to be like something rather than really to be something. In this sense, then, no one is really doing.
The notion that we are not awake, that we are not at a level of consciousness where we can understand anything rightly, and where it is impossible to know or have anything real, and where we cannot be in control of ourselves because we are not conscious at the point where control would be possible — is found throughout Platonic, Christian and many other teachings. But consider how difficult — how impossible — it is for us to admit that we are asleep in life. It cannot be an admission. It can only be a gradual realization. And such an experience can only be brought about by the influences of efforts and ideas belonging to the nearly-lost science of awakening. The translators of the gospel could not have properly understood this idea for they translated the Greek “ypnyopew” as “watch” (“Watch, therefore, and pray,” etc.). And this word “watch” is found in many places in the New Testament, but its real meaning is to be “awake.” And the force of this meaning is incalculably greater than that expressed by the term “watch.”
Without this effort we fall every moment, prone and lifeless, into the overwhelming stream of time and event, and the circle of our reactions. For at every moment we can sink down into our habitual state of consciousness — where no integration is possible — where, indeed, we are, and can only be, divided up into innumerable little contradictory parts, which continually steal us from ourselves. Then we lie asleep in appearances, lost to ourselves, for then the sense of ourselves is derived only from the ever-changing response to the flicker of appearances. Then every event carries us away. Every event fastens its mouth upon our energy and consumes it. Life carries us away, now up, then down.
We know that when the rich man asked how he could gain eternal life the answer was: “If you will be perfect follow me.” The meaning, in the Greek, is to reach one’s goal. “Sin” meant, in the original, “missing the mark.” The psychological idea emerges quite clearly when we consider the real meaning of these two words. The goal is to perfect oneself, to become complete, and sin is all that that causes one to miss the goal.
To realize that you have not got something and that you need it, this is real asking.
Nor do we think that many of our insoluble difficulties, perplexities, and unanswered questions necessarily exist because of the kind of consciousness we naturally possess, and that a new degree of consciousness would either cause our awareness of them to disappear or bring about an entirely new relation to them.