The Theosophical Society in America

Efforts and Awakening: Insights from the Works of Maurice Nicoll

Printed in the  Spring 2018  issue of Quest magazine. 
Citation: Lachman, Gary, "Efforts and Awakening: Insights from the Works of Maurice Nicoll" Quest 106:2, pg 24-28

Pictures of ourselves prevent us from seeing what we are like . . . You have, let us say, a picture of yourself being kind, just, self-sacrificing and full of good will . . . You do not realize that you are often cruel, selfish, unjust and sometimes full of evil will . . . Now in such cases you do not see your evil but project it on to others. That is, what you do not see in yourself you see reflected in the other person. (Psychological Commentaries, 3:964)

Psychological space is not visited by the physical body, but by the mind, the emotions, and the sensations . . . This invisible world is as real as physical space . . . This inner psychological invisible country, in which we really live our lives, has good and bad places. It has in it heaven, hell and an intermediate place. When we are in the negative part of the Emotional Centre, we are, inwardly, in hell. (Psychological Commentaries, 3:978)

The word translated throughout the New Testament as repentance is in the Greek meta-noia which means change of mind . . . The particle meta indicates transference, or transformation, or beyondness. The other part of this word— -noia—is from the Greek word nous, which means mind. The word metanoia therefore has to do with transformation of the mind. (The Mark, 92–93)

The idea of recurrence is ancient. It is an idea that has lurked in the background of man’s speculations about life from the beginning of European thought. But it is an idea that has so much latent content that we cannot expect any clear formulation of it. It is too deep. (Living Time, 160)

All sacred writings contain an outer and an inner meaning. Behind the literal words lie another range of meaning, another form of knowledge. According to an age-old tradition, Man was once in touch with this inner knowledge and inner meaning. There are many stories in the Old Testament which convey another knowledge, a meaning quite different from the literal sense of the words. The story of the Ark, the story of Pharaoh’s butler and baker, the story of the Tower of Babel . . . And in the Gospels the parable is used in a similar way. (The New Man, 1)

The right hand is ordinarily the more conscious. The more conscious side of a man is the external man, the side he makes use of most: the less conscious side is the inner, deeper man . . . The outer man is formed by contact with outer life, to adapt to life . . . A man with only an outer side developed towards life is a half-man—a one-sided man in the sense of a man cut longitudinally in half. He has one leg and arm and half a brain. There are two sides to a man, a right and left, an outer an inner. They have to be joined together to form the entire man. (Psychological Commentaries, 3:1067)

We are taught, as an exercise to increase consciousness, to try sometimes to take consciously the opposite view to the one we mechanically take. This is including the opposite, but not rejecting the other viewpoint. It is bringing the opposites together towards a middle by including both sides in consciousness. (Psychological Commentaries, 5:1566)

Man is given more than he needs, and this is one of the mysteries of life. He only uses part of his brain. He is given more than he needs for just living his natural life. He is given a far larger house than he uses, or needs for the purposes of ordinary life. As said, he has a brain which is bigger than is necessary for him. (Psychological Commentaries, 5:1764)

Through Self-Remembering we come under new influences which otherwise cannot reach us. If you feel the extraordinariness of your own existence, if you feel the miracle of your body, of your consciousness, of the world that surrounds you, if you begin to wonder who you are, then you are in the state necessary for Self-Remembering . . . In all this the sense of mystery is in us, the sense of the miraculous. It is not necessary to go to Tibet to find the miraculous. You can find it here, now, at this moment. (Psychological Commentaries, 2:601)

Man is both in Time and in Eternity. Eternity is vertical to Time—and this is the direction of Self-Remembering—the feeling of oneself now. Every now is eternal. To remember oneself the feeling of now must enter—I here now—I myself now—I distinct from past or future—the newness of myselfI now. And if the act is successful you will know for yourself that Eternity is always in now and can be experienced as a different taste of time. (Psychological Commentaries, 3:945)

The following six quotes are from Nicoll’s diary, found in Maurice Nicoll: A Portrait by Beryl Pogson, 180–211.

Every effort made individually lifts us above the trend of things, the swings of good and evil, which is life.

Taking life as a training for spiritual development—that is indeed the only message. It is beginning to transform it.

Nature invites us to think beyond the senses, which is the only solution to life’s meaning.

Is it not clear that to develop anything in oneself one must isolate oneself from collective influences?

Synchronicity puts us temporarily above the ordinary laws of horizontal time . . . through a special stroke of attunement, causing correspondence between outer life and inner life.

As soon as we begin to observe examples of synchronicity, we seem to attract them.

Emphasis in all quotes is from the original. Selections are by Gary Lachman.


Nicoll, Maurice. Living Time and the Integration of the Life. London: Watkins, 1981.
———. The Mark. London: Watkins, 1981.
———.The New Man. New York: Penguin, 1976.
———. Psychological Commentaries on the Teachings of Gurdjieff and Ouspensky. Five volumes. London: Watkins, 1980.
Pogson, Beryl. Maurice Nicoll: A Portrait. New York: Fourth Way Books, 1987.