The 4th Way teaches that man’s so-called inner life is a chaos of multiple little I’s, each pulling in its own direction. These are mechanical and we cannot speak of an immortal soul, rather we have a complex machine which only reacts and adapts to environment as a function of its innate and acquired tendencies.
Unlike other schools of thought that see man as mechanical, the 4th Way does not see this as a permanent or necessary condition, least of all as a desirable condition. Man is entrusted with a certain cosmic function and this is the call to evolve past mechanicity and to become a conscious assistant to creation. However, in order to respond to the call, man must become one, internally unambiguous and conscious. This entails the fusing of the multiple little I’s into a real I.
The real I is not however a synthetic product of fusing little I’s. It is something of a qualitatively different nature which may or may not exist as a potential in an individual. The 4th Way Work aims at creating internal conditions where the real I might manifest. This means creating internal cohesion and order but it would be wrong to say that a real I is simply an amalgamation. It is a part of a higher world which may take residence in man if the vessel is well prepared. In the parable of the coach, the real I is the master. The seat of the real I are the higher emotional and higher intellectual centers. The real I can be compared to soul, although the terms are not exactly synonymous. The real I can have free will as the lower components of the self cannot. We could say that if there is something unconditioned that may take place through man, this is the domain of the real I. No matter how learned, smart or capable man is, he remains a reaction machine as long as there is no contact with a real I. We could say that the Work only prepares the soil where the pre-existing real I can take root. It is thus that man can bridge between the world of matter and spirit. We may compare this process also with the Cassiopaean idea of alignment with a thought center or archetype.
Preparing the soil for the real I may also correspond to growing the higher being bodies as understood in the 4th Way. These processes collectively may transform man into something that can survive physical death and reincarnate if he so chooses.
The efforts of the lower centers do not create the higher. They are however necessary for preparing a place for it. This is somewhat akin to the eternal theological question of grace vs. merit.
The 4th Way teaches that man in his normal state is not a single being. Instead, man is a collection of mechanical effects which all call themselves ‘I.’ Man is compared to a nation where every citizen gets to be king for 5 minutes, with absolute power to enter into whatever commitments and to generally do what he pleases. The concept is related to the concept of ‘program,’ ‘personality’ and ‘buffer.’
The QFS associates the concept of little I to a neurological imprint or conditioned response or to a mental state that is characterized by typical conditional responses. Social roles which one assumes automatically without conscious decision are for example due to different little I’s coming in control in different combinations at different times. .
Little I’s are typical of the default state of man and are not a pathological condition like multiple personality disorder (MPD). Psychiatric conditions like MPD can arise if little I’s are unusually split, which is not the case in normal ‘sleeping’ man. What contemporary psychology calls normal personality is however from the viewpoint of the
4th Way a mechanical chaos of competing little I’s, far removed from having a ‘fixed self’ or ‘real I.’