October 2021 Lessons – A Student’s Perspective

I remember once reading a crazy idea by Ouspensky in his book A New Model of the Universe, where he states that in this work it is possible to predict the future. The strange emotion the statement generated in me slowly changed to a strangeness about the idea I had of what I thought predicting the future meant. As much as anyone else, when I think about prediction, I always imagine being able to know the lottery numbers, or foresee a terrible accident or sickness or know what the weather will be like and dress appropriately. The prediction I always imaged as being in the world outside, and never thought about it in the world within.

Diving deeper into the fourth way and the tools and nuances which are unique to it, I am beginning to appreciate what Ouspensky was really trying to say. The future open to us to predict belongs not to the world that is outside of us, but to the world that resides within.

We are, in our own individual experience, asleep and live life through mechanical processes. That is why we learn and practice this system, to awaken. But that journey is a lifelong one, and while we struggle against sleep, mechanical processes still rule us. It is from these processes that we have the opportunity to foresee the future.

Fixed Action Pattern is a behavior pattern first observed in geese during the 20th century, an observation which gained traction as Biologists began observing the same pattern all across the animal kingdom, expressed in unique ways by each individual animal. FAP is a sequence of actions that play themselves out in sequential order when given a certain external stimulus. In geese, what was observed was that if an egg rolled out of the nest, the goose would stand, stretch its neck towards the egg, use its bill to roll it back into the nest and then sit back down. This action was fixed, meaning that even if the egg was right by the goose, requiring no need to stand and reach for it, the goose would still perform the same sequence of actions. The pattern dictated a set sequence of behavior that would always be followed, to the detail, mechanically.

As human beings we belong to the animal kingdom. As human beings, we are filled with mechanical behaviors, mechanical emotions, mechanical thoughts. This is where the power of prediction lies.
When I speak, I speak mechanically. When I engage people, I engage them mechanically. When I move, I move mechanically. As much as I work, I can never completely rid myself from mechanical behavior, at least not for now; and because a mechanical pattern of behavior is fixed and marked by a sequence of actions, by learning this sequence, I can come to know how it will play itself out when it is stimulated.

Having a conversation with a person I do not like can set off a negative reaction in me, and because that reaction is mechanical, it has a fixed pattern of thoughts, emotions and sensations that will play out, always; or, if I am waiting in line to go to the store and somebody jumps in front of me, I will have a negative reaction, a mechanical reaction that will always express itself in the same thoughts, emotions and sensations.

We are encouraged to learn about ourselves, and learn about our mechanical reactions. It is through this self-knowledge that we can come to understand the thoughts, emotions and sensations of our mechanisms, and once we understand them, be able to foresee the situations, people or circumstances that can set them off. Understanding the mechanical process that will play itself out is the first step to being able to take a step back from it, to not identify with it and to be free from it.

“Before talking about knowing the future, one must know whose future is meant. If a man wants to know his own future he must first of all know himself.”
Gurdjieff