Wednesday, 2 January 2013



The phenomenon of self-remembering has been of interest to me since I first heard of the concept and found a word to apply to my experience

It is that sense of Me! Here! Now! whereby quite suddenly we may become aware of our situation and condition: a simultaneous awareness of ourselves and our surroundings.

What is remarkable about self-remembering, in my experience, is its rarity; indeed it is so rare that I suppose that many people never experience it at all - but remain absorbed either in awareness of their inner selves or the outer environment - but not both simultaneously.


The sense that self-remembering had some significance thus predates my conversion to Christianity by many years - and is something I recall certainly from mid-teenage; indeed much of what I do recall from my life is these moments of self-remembering.

It would seem that this state of self-remembering is of such special significance that (for some reason) it orientates our lives: it provides the thread of continuity on which our lives are strung.

And if we lack it, we should seek it - the state can usually be induced (or allowed to emerge) simply by remembering to self remember; yet how seldom we do remember to do it, how swiftly we choose to ignore it and move back onto introspection or out into absorption in externalities!



Wm Jas said...

If memory serves, G. I. Gurdjieff and his disciples emphasized the importance of what you are calling "self-remembering" -- simultaneously experiencing something and being aware of yourself as experiencing it -- and had certain meditative techniques intended to develop that ability.

Bruce Charlton said...

@WmJas - yes, that's where the notion comes from. I got it from Colin Wilson, who wrote a lot about G.

SonofMoses said...

Dear Bruce,

As myself a longterm practitioner of the Gurdjieff teachings, it interests me greatly that you put such store in the practice of self-remembering.

What intrigues me is how you relate it to your chief love, Christianity.

According to Gurdjieff, self-remembering was one of the things Christ was teaching his disciples (as when he urged them to stay awake in the Garden of Gethsemane).

Can you see any direct connection yourself?

Bruce Charlton said...

@SoM - I now regard SR as a means to the Christian end of communion with God - in particular thanking, praising, worshipping God, as I recognize my place in creation: a form of prayer.

Wm Jas said...

Would you recommend Colin Wilson? If so, what's a good book to begin with?

SonofMoses said...


So does the act of SR for you implicitly incorporate a sense of ‘standing in the presence of’, where the collectedness of one’s powers is focussed into a state of ‘bare personal existence’ perhaps, and one’s simplest identity,in its experience of the wonder of the human condition, is offered – with all obscuring artifice and covers dropped away - to its Blessed Source, or am I hopelessly embroidering and crassly putting words into your mouth?

Bruce Charlton said...

@SoM - No, it doesn't imply that - not in and of itself, as a psychological state.

Recall, I have known about SR for well over 30 years, yet been a Christian fro only a few years.

What I'm telling you about is how I regard SR nowadays. The state places me in reality, and this now reminds me that I and everything else are created, and that I and everything else are known.

In the past the SR state (minus Christianity) was pretty much an end in itself - and did not point to anything else.

Bruce Charlton said...

WmJas - I have read an enormous amount of Colin Wilson over the years, but I'm not sure whether I (as I am now, at my age) would recommend reading him.

In particular, I think you - as a *post*-religious person - would probably not find it addressed your need. Also, you would find him a bit 'middlebrow' I suspect - the writing is pitched about the level of Shaw's prefaces, or GK Chesterton's essays - although clearly not at that quality of prose (i.e. high journalism, rather than literature).

But Wilson is a serious and honest seeker, and there is something very likeable about him.

Samson J. said...

If memory serves, G. I. Gurdjieff and his disciples emphasized the importance of what you are calling "self-remembering" --

I have heard of all of this, but when I learned about it - just last year, in fact, from someone who teaches it as part of managing "life stress" - it was called not "self-remembering" but "mindfulness". Initially I was a bit wary of it because it sounded too close to Eastern meditation for my comfort, but a Charlton endorsement is certainly helpful.