Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Psyche and centers


Shadows, slot canyon, New Mexico

I had a long drive to work this morning due to winter weather, and had plenty of time to ponder the nature of things. Today it was the connection between psyche and body, or centers.

Traditionally, the territory occupied by the psyche is seen as mysterious-impenetrable- marvelous. What we don't understand is that most of that is conceit. It isn't the psyche- our personality- that has all these qualities. It's the essence. And essence is not, like the personality, of, from, and for the outer world: it is born within the centers.

It is our most secret self. Thus I chose this picture, which for me evokes a real sense of the mysterious: a beautiful shadow that represents something we cannot quite touch from where we are now in life.

So, where to begin that quest?

In the beginning of a spiritual work, we inevitably take everything in with the intellectual mind, which I shall call the psyche for the sake of brevity.

By psyche I mean all the various commonplace elements of consciousness. Gurdjieff called this associative center; whatever you wish to name it, let's just note that in our ordinary state this is the "business end" of the complex combination of organic functions which we manifest. This is the locus of our personality.

Everything comes into us and is processed and turned around by this "business end" I'm calling the psyche. It can't be any other way; this is the main tool we have been given to work with as we begin our lives.

Welcome to the wonderful world of mental science! We study it; we analyze it; we try in every way possible to find out what makes it tick, what is wrong with it, so that we can improve its functioning, because, in general- especially in this day and age- everyone seems to agree that there are things wrong with theirs. In the Gurdjieff work we analyze it in very great detail, dividing it into parts and trying to see how each part of the psyche functions and affects us.

I’ve seen people spend most of a lifetime convinced they can find answers like this, working from the top down. Our personality, our intellectual part, spends a great deal of time offering convincing arguments to that effect. Our concept of what it means to work starts out inverted.

Sooner or later, though, in any real spiritual Work we have to come to what I would have to call a "ground floor recognition:"

The system cannot be changed from the top down, no matter how hard we try.

If any durable transformation ever takes place, it has to take place from the bottom up. This is foundation-up change: the rock upon which a church is built.

In this case it means, as Gurdjieff said, that change must be physiological. The work must invert itself to become of a work of connecting our centers, which are the locus of our essence. The whole state of our being, whatever it is, arises from the centers, not the psyche …Who really understands this? To get even a taste of it is a big thing.

The centers inside our bodies, which all speak in different languages, work at different speeds, and do not communicate with each other, must be brought into a new kind of relationship. They have to discover a harmony between each other. Refer you back to my earlier posting about the enneagram for a map of the connections between centers.

It isn’t until we recognize the fundamental need to connect our centers within that we can begin the real work of reassembling this broken machine we live in.

And that, as formidable a task as it may seem, is only a first step on the path to inner unity.




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