You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart,
with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.
- Mark 12:30
The first step of conscious evolution is balancing energies. The method begins with separating the energies of thought, feeling, sensation and then harmoniously blending them.
- G. I. Gurdjieff
From our explorations these last few weeks, perhaps it is now easy to see that the Work's anthropology, psychology and ethic flows directly from its cosmology, for the anthropology is determined by humanity's place on the planet earth, and, in turn, the earth depends on its place in the Ray of Creation. As we have seen, the foundation for manifested human being in its fullness is that humanity has evolutive possibility, a self-developing organism. We are invited – in fact, created – to take our place, stand awake and be present in that mi-fa interval and make our individual offering to the greater "cosmic ecology," as Cynthia Bourgeault would say.
This week, we turn our attention to Work on the side of our embodied psychology, by focusing on the central Work idea of the centers. In particular, we will focus our attention on the possibility of harmonizing our centers/brains.
For the sake of brevity, we reduce the vastness of a human being into three categories: the intellectual center, the emotional center, and the instinctive-moving center. Our centers are profound in what they do. And many miracles occur when our centers are working correctly as well as maladies when our centers are working incorrectly. Another way of speaking about our centers is by using the word "processes," since so much of their operational activity is more like an intelligent process rather than a "location" we can simplistically point to in our body: e.g., head, heart, hara.
So what do we mean by the word "centers?" Kathleen Speeth, a student of the Work astutely comments: "In Gurdjieff's All and Everything, Beelzebub tells his grandson all about the 'inexplicable behavior of those three-brained beings on that strange planet Earth.' These three brains correspond, like stories in a building, to three different levels of function. The upper story is the intellectual center, the middle story contains the emotional center, and the lower story is the locus of control for the … moving center, the instinctive center, and the sexual center. In addition to these [lower] five centers, which are operative in every person, there are two more centers which … have no connection to the others unless one is intentionally and skillfully made: the higher intellectual center and the higher emotional center" (The Gurdjieff Work, p. 33). From this quotation, we can see that in the purview of the Work, there is more to a human being than just the three centers.
One aspect of our possible further development of the centers is their increasing harmonization. Similar to the idea of harmonization is the word "spiritualization" of the centers. Last year, we looked briefly at the intentional spiritualization of centers in an email and talk dated January 21, 2021. You are invited to review this email as the foundation for this and the coming weeks' discussions.
Regarding the harmonization of our centers, let's begin by noting that ideally, each of the lower centers would do the work for which it is best adapted and qualified. Maurice Nicoll notes: "Every conscious perception and every manifestation of a person, everything taken in and given out, should be the result of a coordinated working of the three [intellectual, emotional, moving] centers, each of which should furnish its own share of associations and knowledge and experiences. In place of this, the working of these different centers is, nowadays, almost completely disconnected. … For this reason, we are very rarely conscious … We are not one individual, but three distinct people that are not in harmony. The first thinks in total isolation from the rest; the second feels in the same way; and the third acts mechanically, according to long-established habits. If development were normal, the intellectual, emotional and instinctive-moving functions would form one single entity, in harmony with all the different sides of oneself" (Commentaries, "The Three Brothers in A Man," June 4, 1942, Vol. 1, p. 157).
A further consequence of the centers not working at their capacity and potential is their inability to properly contact the higher centers – intellectual and emotional – with their inherent capacities of higher wisdom and Presence, access to full consciousness of ourselves and the awareness of objective reality and cosmic purpose. Permanent connections with the higher centers can be forged only when the workings of the lower centers have been regulated, quickened and harmonized to match the vibrational levels of higher centers. Temporary connections do occur spontaneously in ecstatic moments, but these are only occasional and brief.
The harmonious development which results from a balanced relationship between the centers leads to an increase of being and a greater integration with all aspects of life. Whenever we perform an activity well, all three centers participate and contribute. We have the experience of conscious doing borne from intentionality: a quiet mind with directed attention and a whole heart, working together in a fluid, adaptive body. The result is both a sense of peaceful satisfaction and of joy. An apt analogy of a balance between the various centers is the conscious, harmonious interchanges between members of an orchestra, in which each musician, playing their own instrument, uniquely contributes to the whole ensemble performance.
A. R. Orage, the close associate of Gurdjieff, explains: "When impressions are received consciously, that is, we are aware of them, the three forces are distributed properly and the three centers equally fed. Our first job is to restore the balance. In the world at present, all the high rewards are for doing and knowing. There are none for being and yet being is the result of doing and knowing properly applied. Before becoming highly developed we must become ordinary men and women, that is, people who are harmoniously developed [Balanced Man #4] … thinking, feeling, and acting in unison and toward one purpose" (Gurdjieff’s Emissary in New York: Talks and Lectures with A. R. Orage 1924-1931, p. 22).
Some practical exercises on harmonizing the intellectual center
This week, we will focus primarily on harmonizing the intellectual center. For our Work this week, we outline just seven of the many practical ways to work on harmonizing the intellectual center:
- Like in Centering Prayer, observe our thoughts and their manifestation in our speech: Note the repetitive, mechanical phrases, the expressions of like and dislike, the tendency to negative expression, criticisms, arguments. Return ever-so-gently to context – choose silence of being.
- Similarly, refrain from negative phrases: Rather than say "I can't understand" – starting from the negative part of the intellectual center – rephrase. Say instead: "I can Work more deeply on this subject." This is one way of making personality a little more passive. If you speak differently, you will think differently, which is just the opposite of what we might expect.
- Focused, directed attention, listening to one's inner state, uninfluenced by imagination: "It allows me to produce the total inner quietness needed for the transformation of what I am into what I wish to be, for reaching a higher state. I see attention as a force which gathers and focuses some of my scattered energies into one place, like a laser beam, or a magnifying lens focusing light. … How often are we carried away by the emotions when clear intellect is needed? Attention is the ray which cuts through the cobwebs obscuring my path and shows me the kind of energy to use … Attention helps me deal with my laziness and directs my energies to 'to make efforts.' Effort, energy and attention are intimately connected. But I need to realize how they are obtained. I collect and focus my attention then I summon the energies to finally make the effort" (John Fuchs, Forty Years After Gurdjieff, pp. 50-51).
- Work on your thoughts: "The time for daydreaming and demurring is over" (Cynthia Bourgeault, Eye of The Heart, p. 171). Work on noticing and stopping imagination, that is, daydreaming: "Daydreaming does not pursue any aim, does not strive after any result. The motive for daydreaming always lies in the emotional or the moving center. The actual process is carried on by the thinking [intellectual] center … Daydreaming of disagreeable, morbid things is very characteristic of the unbalanced state of the human machine. … Daydreaming of an unpleasant character is an utter absurdity. And yet many people spend nine-tenths of their lives in just such painful daydreams about misfortune which may overtake them or their family, about illnesses they may contract or sufferings they may have to endure" (P.D. Ouspensky, In Search of the Miraculous: Fragments of an Unknown Teaching, p. 196).
- Setting daily aims: On our way to the realization of Real I, or Real Will, what could prompt the conscious and intentional use of the intellectual center? What is the higher authority which one would come under? Setting daily aims, being accountable to these aims with oneself and, ideally, with another. Prayer: "Prayer was originally for help to lift one to a higher state of consciousness. The Lord's Prayer is designed to make a man remember himself, for an entire change of being, so that help can enter" (Maurice Nicoll, cited in Gurdjieff: Mysticism, Contemplation, & Exercises, p.72). But without Self-remembering [attention in and harmonization of all three centers], Prayer is impossible (Commentaries, "The Teaching About Prayer in The Work," June 19, 1942, Vol. 1, p. 155).
- Affirmations of words, symbols, images: Our minds are filled with turning thought-fragments and memories, many repetitive, often negative. Since they are a normal and natural property of sleeping humanity, consciously implant affirmations of goodness and when they too become routine and mechanized, the mechanization carries a positive impression.
I AM ∙ I WISH ∙ I CAN WORK
Embody these ideas:
- Choose one of the practical exercises for this next week. At the end of each day write a "journal entry" of what you discovered.
- Read and reflect on the Work parable which describes the condition and potential of the centers in Maurice Nicoll's Commentaries, "The Parable of The Horse, Carriage and Driver," July 1, 1944, Vol. 2, pp. 464-468. Whose authority is the driver under? What do you suppose are the reins?
February Practice: Baking Bread
In service to our theme of arising as embodied life, last month, our practice was holding a rock. This month, we continue with the theme of using our hands to connect with physicality. In this case, dough. Perhaps you have never made bread. Or perhaps you're a pro. The invitation this month is to make an intention before and as you touch and knead the dough. Feel into the dough. Sense its life and possibilities. Ponder the mystery of the miracle of bread and how it has sustained humankind. Jesus referred to himself as the bread of life. Bethlehem, where Jesus was born, literally means in Hebrew, "house of bread." Bread is THE Christian element, embodied as it is in the Eucharist. Be a part of the process of the life of bread by baking it, from start to finish. Observe your responses to the bread in each of its life-stages. Feel into all the aspects of bread – its sources, its enzymes, its coloration, its fermentation, its taste, its smell, its possibilities.
Attend The Journey School Thursday Class Tonight: All are encouraged and welcome to attend tonight's class for a review of these teachings and, importantly, to produce a container of beings seeking to be more conscious and whose efforts assist one another: 7:00 pm Central Time via Zoom only.
- Click on this link and Zoom should open automatically on your laptop or tablet: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/9961019778?pwd=aVFLZVQwNGZSNkQ4TDRTUW9yU1Ywdz09, or
- Open Zoom, click on Join Meeting and enter this meeting ID: 996-101-9778, passcode: CCH