The Gurdjieff teaching offers a map. There has to be a map, a description of human beings, so that I can begin to know myself in a reasonably orderly way.
It may be that there are two primordial perceptions in this teaching from which everything else flows. The first of those perceptions is ever so simple: that we are three-brained beings, made up predominantly of three faculties -- thinking, feeling, and moving. Gurdjieff called them our three centers: the intellectual center, the emotional center, and the body, which he divided into three – instinctive, moving, and sexual center.
So there’s the intellectual center, the feeling center, and the instinctive center by which he meant all the automatic functions – the beating of the heart, the blinking of the eye, the hundreds of thousands of functions of the body that proceed on their own and sustain our lives. And then the moving center, which is all of the parts of the body that have to do with motion, and finally the sexual center. This is Gurdjieff’s model of the three-brained being.
Our three centers -- thinking, feeling, and moving -- are disconnected from each other.
The second fundamental perception is that, as we find ourselves, these three "brains" are disconnected from one another; they have virtually independent lives. The mind, the thought, as all of us know, just goes on and on. We wake up in the morning and we are thinking. The mind’s natural function is the production of thoughts and images, and this goes on endlessly. This doesn’t matter until a certain point, and then it matters greatly.
Feelings also have their independent lives. The feelings are more elusive. For example, if you ask yourself now, What am I actually feeling? If you consult your chest, so to speak, you’ll find that there is a very fine feeling there that you hadn’t noticed before. The feeling center is capable of volcanic power, and also of fine vibrations, like the diaphragm of the old-fashioned telephone. That is the advantage of the feeling center. It’s an enormously powerful presence in us, and it’s only somewhat linked to the other centers.
The independence of the body’s intelligence is very easy to confirm. For example, when I am in the shower or I tie my shoelace, I think to myself: I’m doing this. But, in fact, the body knows very well how to shower and how to tie its own shoelace. The body has it worked out into a tight routine. This is not “me” taking a shower; it’s my body showering itself. It knows how to do this.
There are ten thousand things in our lives like that, and there’s nothing wrong with this. We don’t intellectually think about each and everything we do. We rely on the intelligence of the body for the things it knows how to do. It’s full of habits. The problem – and this is one of the primordial perceptions – is that the separateness of feeling, body, and thought, and the attention of the mind, creates a sterile situation.
Our three centers are designed to cross-fertilize, they’re designed in an awakened human being to be all the time providing ways of knowledge, of impressions, of insights in their own language. The integration of the three centers is an enormous resource that we don’t experience richly at all. Why?
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