All that happens to us, all that we see, all that we hear, all that we feel, all that we learn is registered in our mental decorum. In the time of Ouspensky, the first of phonographic recording were made on wax rolls. The sensory input from our five senses leaves a definite imprint on the ‘wax rolls’ in our being. An impression can be deep, or it can be very slight, or it can be merely a glancing impression that disappears very quickly and leaves no trace after it. Everything that we know, everything that we have learned, everything that we have experienced is all there on our rolls. When we are thinking mechanically, we can think of nothing new, nothing that is not on our rolls. When we feel mechanically, we can’t feel anything new; we only relive the emotional imprints that are recorded on these rolls.
These rolls act as a database. We cannot see anything new outside of our database, and all our listening and understanding is focused on reinforcing what’s already in the database. Every center or mind has its own set of memory imprints or database.
The quality of your impressions is a function of the level of consciousness at which these impressions were experienced at the time. Since mechanical man lives most of his time in only the two lower states of consciousness – ‘sleep’ and ‘waking sleep’ – most of his memory is filled with mechanical impression. In rare occasions, we have these special moments of awareness where we experience impressions in the third state of consciousness. In such a flash of self-consciousness, or even near it, all impressions of the moment are connected and remain connected in the memory. These connected impressions leave a far greater imprint in your mental decorum.
“If one is more conscious in the moment of receiving impressions, one connects more definitely the new impressions with similar old impressions, and they remain connected in memory.”
The system considers ‘impressions’ to be the highest order of food. We can survive three months without food, we can survive 3 days without water, we can survive 3 minutes without air, but we cannot survive 3 seconds without impressions. One of the aims of meditation, for instance, is to enhance the quality of your mental impressions by becoming more aware of their mechanical and neurotic nature. In doing so, in slowing them down, a higher quality of mental food is available.
Typically speaking, we have very little influence on what quality of impressions we are exposed to. We can, however, have a lot of weight on how these impressions fall on the wax-rolls on our mental decorum. The concepts of ‘The Fourth Way’ provide you a wide range of tools to help digest impressions differently and transcends the limitations of your database and its habitual ways of feeling, thinking, and responding.
On the other hand, if one receives impressions in a state of identification, one does not notice them. We take them and our response to them for granted. The traces of their impact disappear before they can be appreciated or evaluated. In the state of identification, one does not see, and one does not hear. One is wholly in one’s grievance, or in one’s desire, or one’s imagination. One cannot separate oneself from things or feelings or memories, and one is shut off from all the world around. One is fast asleep. To remember oneself means to notice this state of identification and remembers to get present. In a state of sleep, we are not able to evaluate impressions rightly, which is the main reason for our difficulties as they constitute themselves mostly in misunderstanding reality.