Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Self-remembering, in German

Many readers know I grew up in Germany, and speak German as a second language.

Most won't know that the word for self-remembering in German is Selbst-erinnerung. This word is of particular interest because of its difference from the english version; remember that English is, at its root, a Germanic, not Latin, tongue, and we might have supposed a closer relationship than the one we'll examine here.

To re-member, in English, is to (literally) put limbs back together, member being from the latin membrum, limb. This alone superficially explains the difference between the English and German; but, I think, the German conveys a compelling difference.

The German word means and action of going within. It is, in essence, self entering self, self going into self, that is to say, a deepening of self through the action of self knowing self. So here, rather than putting back together what was presumably sundered (re-membering) one goes into what is already whole and available.

Admittedly, self-withingoing doesn't roll off the tongue as mellifluously as self-remembering; yet this action of going within seems very apt.

The idea, as expressed in English, implies a reassembly — and this is, indeed, consistent with Gurdjieff's idea that we are made of different parts that need to come together in a union. Yet in German, this idea of going within is also very, very consistent with Gurdjieff's ideas about the need to separate the inner from the outer — and in order to do that, we need to clearly understand what the difference between the two is.

In Transcripts of Wartime Meetings, he put it to one of his pupils thus:

You know what man is made of: of individuality and of functions of the organism. 

Until now, in you the two things existed like a single one, one function mixed with the other, one function interfering with the other. When we separate the interior life from the exterior life, "I" is the interior, "me" is the exterior, and it is possible to separate them in a definite manner. This exercise will help you to do that. 

Afterwards, you will be able to know and you will be responsible for your future. Till now, you were not responsible. You will be. You will know, and it will be your fault if you do not act well. Sufferings of all sorts will be necessary to square your debt.

 Transcripts of wartime meetings, pages 74 – 75

 It's worthwhile to examine this question closely in relationship to the idea of sensation. Remember, Gurdjieff told us that the organic sensation of being creates our individuality.


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