Wrong Work of Centers

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Maurice Nicoll
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Wrong Work of Centers

The Psychological Commentaries of Maurice Nicoll in five volumes are well known to students of the Work. For those of you unfamiliar with Nicoll here is the short forward to the Commentaries:

These Commentaries were written on the Teaching which Dr. Maurice Nicoll received personally from Ouspensky, whom he met in 1921, and Gurdjieff, whom he met in 1922. He studied under Ouspensky and then in 1922 went to Gurdjieff's Institute at Fontainebleau for a year, after which he returned to London and studied under Ouspensky until 1931 when Ouspensky gave him permission to teach the System. Dr. Nicoll's teaching has continued from 1931 until the present day. The Commentaries which form this book were begun during the war years and continued afterwards.

Use this link to Volume 1 of the Commentaries, and see pages 68 to 87 where Nicoll gives a detailed account of the wrong work of centers.

After studying this material please return here and post a comment on whether and how the material was helpful to you.  --  Thanks

Sabrina Zurgani
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Notes 6th January 2016

Present: John, Ayala, Sabrina, Richard, Elaine, Shaun, Ana, Maja, Florence, Julia.

Notes by Ana, Florence and Sabrina

We started by finding a proper posture and connecting to the Earth, getting energies from the earth.  Gurdjieff calls this ‘reciprocal maintenance’.  We sit on the Mulhadarra chakra.  We find that point and make the energetic connection with the world of energies which this chakra connects us with.  We relax by putting attention on muscle groups and directing the body to relax.  We allow the body to bring itself to proper direct alignment.  We then do the opening of the crown chakra exercise.  We become receptive and there is a shift in our perception, where a part of our subtle nature can receive energies.  We take a minute or two in silence to enter into that.

We notice that we spontaneously connect to our breathing and we become aware of the path and the physical sensation of the breath coming in.  We then become aware of the subtle substances that come in on the breath and we invite them to enter into us.

We turn our attention back to the body and we become aware of our feet.  We invoke sensation in the feet and once we have sensation really established we intensify it and bring it up the legs and up to the knees.  We then have a very perceptible energy field which we extend up to the hips as though we have both physical and energy legs occupying roughly the same location but different in nature.  We bring that sensation up the front and back of the body all the way up the shoulders as though we were sitting in a tub of warm water.  We add sensation to the hands all the way up to the top of the head.  We step back and become aware of this field of sensation as if we are now wearing a second body made up of sensation energy and we reinforce it.  This filling exercise is important because it creates a doorway to the second world. It is sometimes called the etheric body and it is not the body or the second body but it is an important medium.

We invoke the energy of feeling in the feeling centre.  The pure energy of feeling before it takes form and we find it feels like something in the chest is swelling and growing and extending outside of the chest.  We find that the feeling centre responds to us and does what we ask it to do.

Passing on to the intellectual centre where the energy of thought is invoked in the head brain.  We put our attention on the right hand and reinforce the sensation in the right hand as if we have slipped on an energetic glove.  We divide our attention on the felling centre reinforcing the energy there and we move it and blend it with the energy of sensation in the right hand.    This blended energy should feel different than just the energy of sensation alone.  We put part of our attention on the head, re-invoking intellectual energy and we find it responds to our intention and we take it and blend it with the energy of sensation and feeling in the right hand.  We register the difference in the experience of having all of these energies blended.  Blending is important because it is used for the opening of the third eye, coating the second body and having a three centred experience.  Each of these energies carries one of the aspects of the law of threefoldness.  They blend to create a total experience of affirmation, receptivity and reconciliation.  Gurdjieff said that only three centred work brings us to reality.  He called one centred work hallucination and two centred work semi hallucination.

Before leaving the exercise we take a snapshot of it such that when it is needed there can be true remembering or putting oneself back together.  As Gurdjieff put it we have three personalities: the moving, emotional and the intellectual, which allow for the real I to come forth.

John asked for comments, questions or observations.

Sabrina said that with sensation the hand could be experienced, with emotional energy the hand felt like it had identity and intellectual felt like it turned the hand into a tool.

Elaine said that she had a different experience to Sabrina’s when she put emotional energy in the hand because for her the hand turned into a less defined structure.

John said that that was not contradictory to what Sabrina said and when asked Sabrina described her experience as a knowing and a deeper seeing of the hand.

Maja said that she had an interesting experience which she never had before.  She felt intellectual energy jutting at the top of her head.  It seemed to grow larger but couldn’t go up so it spread out like a disk.  This made her realise how much more space we use up, more than our physical body.  John said that when we have a thought it takes physical space and we can send thoughts (and we do) to other people by putting attention to it.  The same is said of feeling energy where people exchange feeling energy.

These energies can be seen in a special state and they are seen as forming an undulating, celestial world.

Ayala adds that when she blended the energy she suddenly had a vision of how energy works in the parts of parts of centres and she saw it connected to the blending of energies.  John says that it is common to understand something in one moment and then not understanding it the next moment.  John said that that happens because we run out of a certain high quality energy.  Also when we get rid of lower energies (which the earth loves) we do not have those kinds of experiences any more.

Maja adds that that is why the relaxation part is so important because it includes relaxing all the centres,

John said that he wants to put up the topic of relaxation and its 7 levels on the Forum.  What we have dealt with up till now is only the first level of relaxation.

Ana says that that when the energies were blended in her hand she felt as if her hand was floating.

Julia said she missed most of the exercise but being back to work she is stressed but as soon as she relaxed, all of her thoughts were clear and manageable.

John says that tension uses huge amounts of energy.  The body continually generates energy but if we use it up we have nothing for high quality experiences.

Somebody said that ‘What you call thinking I never do. Either I know or I don’t know.’

Gurdjieff says that we think too much, it is not really thinking and for the most part it is unnecessary and leads to nothing.

 It is often the associative spin of the wheels of the intellectual center that just uses up energy and accomplishes nothing.  It imagines what a situation is going to be and then when we get there, it's not at all what we imagined or if it is, our emotions are not what we planned for so we respond completely differently than we had imagined.  If it's thinking like an engineer to make a calculation or thinking to read a map, that's useful.  Florence commented that with reference to too much thinking, Gurdjieff had said to someone "you think, I look".

John says that this exercise requires practice and that it can be done anywhere and in different circumstances, at any time of day even when we are talking to someone or riding a bus etc. Richard comments that this being connected to the different energies of the three centers could save one's life.  He elaborated that the very first time he made contact with a certain degree with himself, it felt life-saving even though his life was not really being threatened and from that day forward he feels that his life is being threatened.

With regards to the weekly exercise on three centered hugging, typing or eating John refers to Sabrina's excellent description of hugging with all her centers, her 3 year old son. Sabrina added that, in contrast to that hug, at other times during the week she remembered while hugging to observe her centers and realized that in many cases the emotional component was missing. Her intellectual center was thinking about the space and what she was looking at behind the shoulders, the body was experiencing the physical sensations, but the totality of what she experienced when hugging her son was missing. John affirms that this incompleteness is unfortunately very common.

Ana shares the observation of an experience in which her partner hugged her and her moving center stiffened because of an earlier annoyance she had felt towards him. Even though she was no longer annoyed, there seemed to be a remnant expressed by her moving center and when she became aware of it, her intellectual center reasoned that this tension would just perpetuate negativity between them so she relaxed her muscles and that shifted the emotional quality of the experience. Once she let go of the physical tension the emotional center shifted and even the way she was thinking of him changed.  The intellectual center recognized the cost of holding on to the tension would be to move the dynamics in a way she did not want it to go.

In response to this observation, John refers to the image of a rogue elephant that has gone out of control. That elephant can be calmed and controlled by placing two calm elephants on either side of it. In Ana's example, the calm moving center and the calm intellectual center tamed the riled emotional center.  This demonstrates how, when we get a three centered experience, there is a mutual adjustment, a communication and information flow that allows for each center to adjust or respond to the other. The emotional center is the least available center for direct response to our intentions as it wants to do what it wants to do. The body, if well trained, is very available to us.  For instance, we can, whenever we want, sit up and do a relaxation exercise. 

There are three different kinds of time for the centers.  The intellectual center is able to go forward and backward in time whereas the emotional center is in eternal time and the moving center hardly has any connection to time at all and sees now as the totality of everything. There are also different types of thinking for each center and about 100 different parameters in which they each differ from the other.  This is why all three centers are so important and it's so essential that they communicate with, and adjust to, each other.

Ana also shares some observations while doing the notes for this week.  While typing she noted the undulating quality referenced earlier by Maja in which at times the moving center was typing effortlessly while the intellectual center focused on understanding the material but the emotional center was inactive until suddenly she experienced strong feelings of love for the members of the group and a sense of the group as one. At those times it was very three centered but it was elusive and there was an in and out quality. John underscores Gurdjieff's point that centers can temporarily substitute for each other, that if one center runs out of energy another center can come in and substitute for it. This is common when typing and the physical center is going along fine but it gets tired so the intellectual center steps in and directs the fingers etc. while the moving center recharges. 

Elaine states that while she did a lot of observing during the week, she had difficulty seeing the centers as three different entities.  Bennett's talk on centers however helped shift the visual image that seemed to be getting in her way.  She did have an observation when her computer crashed, and instead she was hand writing.  She noted that her attention was much more focused than when typing and, while handwriting was slower, there were less mistakes and less need for rearranging the sentences.  John states that the act of writing is very different than the act of typing, that it involves different musculature and a different involvement of the body which slows down the intellectual and emotional centers.  Gurdjieff talked about getting the three centers to operate at the same rate of vibrations.  It may be that the slowing down of the recording and the enforced slowing down of the intellectual and emotional centers may have gotten the three centers into much more of a vibrational harmony.

With regards to Elaine's comment of "being in the zone" when she was handwriting, Sabrina comments that at times she experiences an inspiration to write something and it feels like energy coming from up over her head enters her and then, the actual writing and thinking and feeling become tools to that, as if it is being done.

John initiates an experiment for identifying the centers in which he directs us to sit using solely  our moving center then using solely our emotional/feeling center and finally, solely our thinking center.  He shows  a picture of Rodan's  stature The Thinker in which the subject appears to be thinking with his whole body.  

Sabrina comments that it would be hard to be in the body while thinking so that if she were sculpting a thinker, the subject would be daydreaming. Maja comments that she found it very difficult to sit with anything but her moving center.  When trying to sit with her thinking center what emerged were the rules of how to sit properly.  Ayala comments that it is different to be in a thinking posture and to be thinking sitting.  It was very simple for her to sit with the moving center but when she shifted to the feeling center, her body just collapsed into a blah state and when in the thinking center, the rules about sitting emerged for her.  For Elaine, sitting with the moving center resulted in the perfect posture.

John directs us to sit using two centers, the moving and the emotional centers combined. John's noticed that when the moving and emotional centers are working together, the physical center really supports the emotional center. The moving center becomes the bedrock that helps the emotional center get through it. Shaun states that he felt the emotional center took over the moving center.  John agrees that keeping them in balance is a real challenge.  Maja had the opposite experience where she couldn't generate an emotion that would unsettle the balance of the physical center.  Her moving center was ok, her feeling center was ok, relaxed, no noise.

Sabrina noted in posture and feeling she had felt relaxed.

While moving on to the matter of house-keeping chores, John encouraged us to stay in touch with our sitting.  He noted that topics to be covered and resources to be used would be posted on the website in response to a request made by Richard at the review session.  Ana added that the group discussed the possibility of diving up the readings and letting different people each present some of the material. John noted that while there was a lot of material, we have within us a faculty that can guide us to just what we need.  John also made the point that everyone could bring something to the party.

Turning to Nicoll, John presents the diagrams of centers and parts of centers noting that Nicoll gives different qualities to each division and subdivision.  John gives the phenomena of turtles hatching and going directly to the water as an example of the intellectual part of the instinctive center, noting that modern science dismisses this as simply instinctive, built in knowledge. 

John asks us to think on what it is that creates these three parts of the centres and why there are three parts, questioning if there is come common thread             .

Richard suggested that each center had a  type of energy passing through that caused the centers to be fragmented in that way.

Ana added that the emotional parts of centers had a relational quality, the intellectual more of a creative nature and the moving more automatic. John notes the relational aspect in the emotional center comes from sensitive energy while in the moving center energy comes from automatic energy and the energy in the intellectual center comes from conscious energy.

Finding Nicoll’s terminology confusing John compares the moving part to the material self, the emotional part to the reactional self and the intellectual part to the divided self in Bennett’s terminology.

Florence notes that Nicoll speaks of attention and the centers requiring different degrees of attention, with the moving requiring little or no attention, the emotional requiring  attracted attention and the intellectual requiring directed attention.

Following more questions concerning which centers use which energy John uses martial arts as an example to describe the high level intellectual function manifesting through the moving center. Another example is how in playing basketball with intention you can know ahead what is going to happen - similar to the phrase used by Elaine - being in the zone.

Ana remembered an earlier comment about the intellectual center being able to look into the future with the ability to know something before it happens which John said was conscious energy getting us into the astral world and allowing us to see which patterns are going to be actualized.  Our centers basically operate in world 48 and that is where our thinking about them at present should be concentrated.

A question John left us with was to ask, if sensitive, conscious and automatic energies are in fact the defining elements for the separation of the three parts of centers, then what is it that separates the parts of parts of centers, noting that Ayala suggested earlier that it might be the blending of energies. He encouraged us to struggle with this over the next week.

John plans to employ the “thematic “ technique (PDF available on the website at Forums>Improving group process>Themes) during the course of the next quarter and encouraged all to read the material.

Taking a moment to reflect back on our experience with Sitting over the last few minutes John asked for comments from the group on their experience.  Elaine offered that for her it had been purely intellectual.  John noted in trying to triple task he had completely lost contact with automatic functioning.

Noting closing time was near, John asked if there were comments.  Florence expressed disappointment that Nicoll had been discussed so little.  Richard would like to include George Jefferies’  comments on centers.  Maja thought we had an excellent sitting at the beginning of the meeting.  Ayala challenged us to be receptive to all the information rather than trying to understand totally every aspect of everything said, adding that mixing it up a little, different sources, different terminology could be helpful.  John reiterated the necessity of working outside our comfort zones.

In closing we took a minute to come into a three centered disposition of sitting, feeling and perception, allowing the whole of the event of the meeting to be transubstantiated, moved to the inside of our being, allowing it to be preserved for eternity.  Absorb, digest, transubstantiate…  

John reminded us to direct our focus this week on the parts of parts of centers, through observation, as to what is happening and why.

Tim
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what's in the cards?

For me, also, it is useful to explore centers and parts of centers not just through the head (thinking about them, reflecting on diagrams) or the body (a big relief from the head) but also through the heart (with symbols and otherwise).

The suits of the tarot cards, or just a regular set of playing cards, can be helpful in this way:

Clubs/Wands = Instinctive Center

Spades/Swords = Moving Center

Hearts/Cups = Emotional Center

Diamonds/Pentacles = Intellectual Center

Further, the court cards divide each center into parts:

Page = Instinctive or Vital Part of Center [not in Nicoll's formulation or in the modern deck], new beginnings

Jack/Knight = Moving, Mechanical or Automatic Part of Center, action/reaction

Queen = Emotional or Sensitive Part of Center, attraction

King = Intellectual or Conscious Part of Center, command/rule (in the best sense)

That makes it sound rather intellectual; but, through emotional center, one can explore this territory--drink in the images/symbols, dream about them, ask oneself "what does it mean to be a page? a tree (wand)? and so on...." or maybe even create art using all three centers with an emotional center of gravity.

Otherwise, personally, I find it useful to regard parts of centers as deeper or shallower.