For the Week of June 4 - 10:
Centers: Man as a Three-Brained Being
František Kupka, Disks of Newton, Study for Fugue in Two Colors
One of the scribes asked, "Which is the first of all the commandments?" Jesus replied, "The first is this:
'Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is Lord alone! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.' The second is this: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no other commandment greater than these." The scribe said to him, "Well said, teacher. You are right in saying, 'God is One and there is no other than God' and 'to love God with all your heart, with all your understanding,
with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself'
is worth more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices."
And when Jesus saw that he answered with understanding, he said to him,
"You are not far from the kingdom of God." And no one dared to ask him any more questions.
- Mark 12: 28-34
We continue our exploration and study of humanity with its great spectrum of manifestations from a sleeping multiplicity to an unfinished house with many levels and hidden treasures to the awakened Divine Indwelling of Real Iand beyond. One of the ways the Work refers to humanity is as a "three-brained being," which refers to the fact that human beings are given fundamental ways of acting and relating with life – and beyond – through what is known as centers. Centers are another way to describe the levels and capacities of humanity.
"The word 'center' here means the brain or mind that directs a particular function or power of man. As there are seven fundamental functions, there are seven centers named by Gurdjieff …
VII. Higher Intellectual Center
VI. Higher Emotional Center
V. Sex Center
IV. Intellectual Center
III. Emotional Center
II. Moving Center
I. Instinctive Center
"The first four, from the instinctive to the thinking center, are the instruments of knowledge and action that we use in our everyday lives. They may work well or badly … and their work is quite different … The sex center occupies a special position, as sex is a function of the true Self of man. For its expression, the sexual power must use the ordinary functions; but its real nature is seen only in the union of the souls … So, in a way, the sex center can be said to stand between spirit and matter – or perhaps we should say that it ought to occupy that position. When we allow the sexual function to be captured by the lower parts of the self, all kinds of distortions inevitably follow. …
"Then we come to the so-called 'higher centers.' Every description that Gurdjieff gives of them and of their work shows that he regards them as what we should now call spiritual powers. The higher emotional center belongs to the spiritual part of the true Self … It can be taken to represent the highest that human reason can reach. The higher intellectual center …can have direct perceptions of the spiritual realities. …"
- J.G. Bennett, Spiritual Psychology
Inner is Higher; Outer is Lower
Michael Begeman, Diagram of CentersandParts of Centers
This view simultaneously shows three centers (M=moving/instinctive/sexual; E=emotional; I=intellectual; and the three parts of each center, (from outer to innermost: moving, emotional and intellectual parts of centers). The inner cylinder suggests our basic core of goodness.
The study of centers is vast and unfolds in meaning with continued Work. For practicality and usefulness, most Work teachers focus their exploration on the three main centers: intellectual, emotional and instinctive/moving. These terms are helpful in symbolically describing and picturing the human embodied experience in its multiple neurological processes, energetic cellular layers and emotional complexities and relational dynamics. The intellectual and instinctive centers have both positive and negative parts inherently. The negative part of emotional center was acquired since birth through imitation, unhealed trauma and all manner of other unhealed wounds.
Within the three main centers, there are further aspects or parts of centers.
Outer (also known in the Work as formatory, moving, mechanical and small) parts of centers are entirely automatic and therefore work with zero attention and courser energies. Ex. Likes and dislikes, walking down stairs.
Emotional parts of centers work with attracted attention. Ex. Out of realization that there must be something more to life, to be drawn to know more about the Work.
Intellectual parts of centers work with directed attention. Ex. To make effort to read and think about the Commentaries with an attitude of curiosity and openness.
You can review diagrams of centers and their parts in the Commentaries, Vol 1, "Wrong Work of Centers, Part III," pp. 76-79.
Studying centers and parts of centers is useful for self-knowledge and understanding. It becomes a map for:
purification of the emotional center through self-observation, non-identification and Self-remembering. As the emotional center is cleared of this debris, we are able to begin to "hear" the influences of Higher Centers.
self-observing our level of being.
understanding wrong and right use of centers for the moment at hand. For example, assembling furniture or following a recipe is rightly done with the intellectual and moving centers. Emotions like excitement, frustration or impatience are not needed or useful and can be counterproductive.
understanding types of impressions and where they land in us. "[It is in inner parts of centers] that the ideas of the Work, and all similar ideas, such as those found in the Gospels, must fall, for here they can breathe and live and become one's own." (Maurice Nicoll, Commentaries, Oct. 31, 1942, "The Place of Aim," Vol. 1, p. 178)
"We are supposed to have a good filter – that does not eventually let pass any infectious poisonous germs. … Have you begun this aspect of the Work on yourself? Or do you let everything pass unfiltered? … Impressions can fall on different parts of centers and impressions of outer life, of people, etc., coming in via the senses, can be directed and need not fall always on one sore place. We actually have the power, if we develop it, of conscious effort to make impressions fall on new places in ourselves."
- Maurice Nicoll, Commentaries, "On Centers and Parts of Centers," June 7, 1947, Vol. 3, p. 1042
Centers and Attention
The diagram below, shown from the top of the cylinder of centers, symbolically illustrates first, the state of mechanical humanity (where our senses are turned outward and impressions land in the outer parts of centers), and second, the possibility of awakening (where our attention is directed both inward and outward.) Without efforts of attention, impressions always fall on outer parts of centers and evoke automatic responses. It is only with divided attention (looking inward and outward) that impressions have the potential to land in new and deeper places within us, which gives us the opportunity to "think in a new way" about the people, events and even old hurts in our lives. Ex. If we remember that a certain person or interaction mechanically calls up a negative emotion, we can have a future memoryto apply first conscious shock, such as remembering a Work idea or aim, which would allow the incoming impression to land in inner parts of centers, giving us the possibility for something new, unexpected and delightful to arise in our experience. This is the victory of consciously-chosen love.
Michael Begeman, Centers and Attention
Brown arrows = type and direction of attention.
Green arrows = destination of impressions.
Additional benefits of understanding centers:
to learn about and practice attention. The Work defines three levels of attention – zero attention, attracted attention and directed attention. Attention is a powerful life force, an energy that can be directed but seldom is. "It requires directed attention to observe oneself and attention requires consciousness, or rather, the act of attention puts us at once into more conscious parts of centers. It is the same with Self-remembering." (Ibid, p.1042)
learning to make aim, not from outer parts of centers – where all is imitation or recordings and nothing belongs to us – but from inner parts of centers, from whence our aim is truly ours and can even create something.
becoming able to make conscious choices;
the realization that the highest use of our functions and faculties reside not in effort and action, but in alert receptivity and stillness. This is the nature of inner parts of centers – the intellectual part of the intellectual center and the intellectual part of the emotional center – where in our innermost being we are focused, collected, open and receptive to the promptings of the Holy Spirit. This is where connection with Higher Centers begin and transmission can occur. Then being and action in the world manifest in a completely different way.
"Man as a three-brained being has three kinds of intelligence because each of the brains is intelligent in its own way. … Each brain perceives, functions and experiences in a different way, and it is that which produces the experience or taste of three fundamental urges. These urges are not themselves the will; they are the threefold 'face' of it that we can see. Each center is an urge in us. There is the 'will-to-see' of the thinking center – the urge to grasp and understand reality which has its distant echoes in the naggings of curiosity. There is the 'will-to-be' of the feeling center – the urge to become whole with oneself and the world that can turn into its opposite of vanity. There is the 'will-to-live' of the moving center – the urge to do and to retain a hold on life. By these urges we can be spiritualized. It is through them the worlds of function, being and will can become a whole reality: the world of function through the moving center; the world of being through the feeling center and the world of will through the thinking center – and the three of them as one."
- J.G. Bennett, Deeper Man
If you are new to the ideas and diagrams of centers, work on the side of knowledge and take some time to read some of the Commentary references below and study the diagrams. It may help to engage your moving center and draw the diagrams yourself. Discuss your questions and insights with your Journey Group.
If the study of centers is not new to you, what comes to meet you in a new way this time around? How are you being called to work on the side of being now?
For everyone, observe if/how emotions are interfering with a task at-hand.
All are encouraged and welcome to attend tonight's class for a review of these teachings and how they are landing in you: 7pm Central Time via Zoom only.