Principle 28: The Observer

This entry is part 24 of 98 in the series Principles

What is the Principle of the Observer?

This principle operates on the idea of stepping aside or standing back and watching yourself and situations from a distance. This causes one to not become overly attached to the feelings generated or the outcome.

An example of this is an actor playing a part. Let us say that Jim is a good actor who is playing the role of a guy who discovers his wife is cheating on him. As he goes through the scene he feels real emotions of rage and sorrow. Tears stream from his eyes. So what is the difference between what Jim is feeling and what is happening to Bob who is going through the real thing?

They are both experiencing the same feelings so is there really a difference?

Yes, there is and it’s a subtle one. Jim is going through the experience as an observer and Bob is totally identifying with the character he is playing in life. Because of Bob’s identification with his character he suffers much more than does Jim. Being a good actor, Jim feels a sense of real discomfort as he plays his character, but because he realizes the emotions do not really belong to him he can merely observe himself as he plays the part and thus keep his discomfort to a minimum.

One may say, “But Bob can’t do that because it is really happening to him.”

Wrong. Bob can do this. The first few times it is difficult and takes a lot of self-control but all of us have this power and when we take this power to ourselves we become invulnerable to emotional devastation. The seeker can then handle betrayal, criticism, hate, jealousy etc as if he is in a play and keep his focus on the purpose of the play of life as he moves forward.

Shakespeare seemed to realize this for he wrote:

All the world’s a stage,

And all the men and women merely players:

They have their exits and their entrances;

And one man in his time plays many parts.


How does applying this principle help the seeker rise above the control of the emotional plane?

It is important to realize that the disciple does not leave the emotions behind. He does not turn into a Vulcan with no emotions. Those who try to do such things wind up suppressing emotion that bottles up inside creating great damage later on.

Instead, he is a good actor who allows himself to feel the entire range of emotions. He can handle them though because he has the attitude of the observer.

To attain this attitude one must make a conscious decision to observe rather than to identify with the lower self. After the decision is made self-control must be applied again and again until this attitude becomes a part of the consciousness.


In applying this principle, what are three important things for you to observe?

Here are three I consider important;

(1) Observe, but do not identify with, all your vehicles in the three worlds of form, the mental, the emotional and the physical.

(2) Observe the reactions of these vehicles with the realization they are not the real you but merely taking you for a ride through earth life.

(3) Observe the interplay of higher spiritual contacts with the lower self and learn to discern the difference between the two.

Why is this a principle?

I’ve talked a lot about the difference between principles and facts. Here is a new insight.

You can easily teach a fact or piece of data and even the densest of students can memorize and repeat them.

On the other hand, a teacher can explain a principle a hundred times and the student will not fully understand until he or she sees how it works. Mere memorization does not bring understanding. It must come through contemplation.

A natural question is this:

Okay being the observer sounds pretty good, but is it really possible and, if so, how do I go about achieving it? You compare it to an actor going through a painful experience and because he sees himself as an actor, separate from the experience, he can observe himself and be detached from the pain. On the other hand, if I hit my thumb with a hammer I experience real pain and there is no acting involved. The same goes if my spouse left me. That would be painful beyond just observing it.

So, is it really possible to bypass or minimize pain by taking on a certain attitude of mind?

The answer is yes and can be concretely proven. A person under deep hypnosis can have all pain taken away instantly with a simple command or the snap of a finger. A person could be badly burned and not feel a thing. In fact subjects have had major surgeries using only hypnosis as the anesthetic and have felt no pain. A demonstration used by some hypnotists is to place the person in a trance and stick him with a needle. When he is commanded to not feel pain or draw blood the subject will be as if nothing has happened to him.

Similarly one can take a subject who is deeply depressed because of lost love and make him overlook the feeling instantly and move to a state of bliss.

This illustrates that the human consciousness has the power to bypass pain and replace it with other feelings if he merely follows the right procedure.

The problem with us mortals is when pain occurs we have difficulty in taking our attention away from it. In fact, it doesn’t occur to most that they can even take their attention off of it and in addition to this many do not want to. Some who are in a state of sorrow or depression seem to derive an odd benefit from it and are unwilling to work themselves out of it.

Some yogis who do a lot of meditation are able to nullify all physical pain or place themselves in a state of peace or bliss at will, but for the average human being, who has to stay connected to his surroundings, such states are difficult to achieve.

There are steps that can be taken by us all.

(1) Realize that detachment and the attitude of the observer is indeed possible and can be achieved. After all, others have done it so you can too.

(2) Practice. When pain or an undesirable situation occurs practice being the observer. See the pain as not belonging to you, but your body. See yourself as not being your body.

You will notice that if you put attention on pain or discomfort that it will seem much more bothersome. If you take attention off of it, the pain will not seem so bad.

Let us say you are home alone and have a terrible headache. There seems to be nothing else to consume your attention but the pain.

Suddenly there is a knock at the door and it is your long lost love. She wants to get back together. For the next few hours times passes quickly as you are thrilled to become intimate again. Two hours pass and suddenly you realize something. Since she has shown up you seemed to have forgotten that your head even ached. Now you think about it you notice the pain again but the shift of attention seemed to take it away for a time.

Practice taking your attention away from the pain and eventually moving to the state of being the observer. Then the pain will still be there but it will have a minimal effect on you.

We do not want to run around in a deep trance where we feel no pain at all because pain is a message sent to our consciousness that something is amiss and needs correction. When pain is there we must register enough of it to take curative action.

Copyright 2014 by J J Dewey

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