Wednesday, November 16, 2011
Thirty years ago today, I got up in the morning and looked at myself in the mirror and realized that if I kept drinking the way I had been drinking, I would die young.
I saw death looking at me in the mirror that day. That's the only explanation. It was a clear and distinctive impression, and I can still remember it. I haven't had a drop of alcohol since that day.
I wanted to share that with readers, because we all need to know that death is inevitable, and that we need to be clear about this. The decisions we make in life should be directly related to that question.
One doesn't want to die having failed to live responsibly. To do so is, as Gurdjieff said, to “to die like a dog.”
I thought I'd write a few notes today about the role of the centers we don't talk about much– sex center and instinctive center. They are, after all, part of the “lower” complex of centers, and yet, when we speak of inner work, we speak of three centered work–intellect, emotion, moving center (i.e, the body.) The place where sex center and instinctive center fit in isn't immediately apparent– nor does anyone give instructions for how to work with them... well, it's true; there are instructions on how to work with sex center in some Tantric disciplines, but that is fairly obscure material for most people.
It's useful to understand that the three centers that man generally works in and lives in–intellect, emotional, and moving center– are, more or less, "sandwiched" between sex center and instinctive center. There is, in other words, a distinctive hierarchy. One could imagine them as a thread running down the center of the body. The exact locations of the energy and the way they work are not necessarily linear, but the analogy of the thread is roughly correct. (The precise analogy, one of circulation, is depicted in the enneagram.)
The ground floor in man is instinctive center. This center is what supports life; it regulates breathing and digestion, along with many other physical functions that man is unable to do anything with himself. We can't, for example, work at the molecular level to determine what nutrients need to be absorbed by the intestine. The instinctive center, however, can do that. Another good example is breathing. It's well known that Gurdjieff did not want his pupils doing breathing exercises. Once one interferes with the ordinary mechanical work of instinctive center, undoing the damage can be nearly impossible. It's not meant to be regulated; treated properly, it is self regulating and needs no special attention.
Because instinctive center occupies the lowest rung, it serves as a bridge between levels. It actually touches the microcosmic level beneath man and mediates its action in him.
Sex center is at the top of the arrangement; as Gurdjieff explained, it works with the highest “hydrogen” that man is capable of manufacturing on his own, that is, si 12. This higher substance makes it possible for sex center, under certain conditions, to touch another level– the higher centers– as it does for brief moments when human beings experience orgasm. Because of the powerful energy it works with, it is able to subordinate the work of all the other centers when it wishes to– this is why we often have very little control over our lusts and sexual desires.
In any event, sex center mediates the energy that serves as a bridge at the top end of the hierarchy. It "touches" the higher centers. Hence its connection to the third eye both in the yogic chakra systems, and on Gurdjieff's enneagram. That isn't to say that there aren't or can't be other energies involved here; as anyone who has studied Gurdjieff's chemical factory knows, there are two other octaves that can produce hydrogens at level 12, each of which can also serve as a bridge between levels.
In between these two centers, we find the mind, the emotion, and the body. All of these lie firmly within territory that can be influenced by our own action. Hence the emphasis on working with these three centers, rather than with all five. It isn't to say that the other two centers don't meaningfully participate; nonetheless, their participation lies, in some measure, beyond our grasp.
All of this might seem rather technical, but it's of interest if one is trying to sense the whole of one's Being. While we tend to concentrate on sensing thought, emotion, and sensation, the participation of both sexuality and instinct may be seen during anything more than a cursory examination. If all of the centers (the three centers we generally work with, that is) begin to work together more harmoniously, the action of the sexual center and the instinctive center become even more apparent, because a greater sensitivity to this type of experience exists. In general, without three centered work, instinctive center is completely ignored– it operates on cruise control– and sex center is experienced strictly in the form of intense and irrevocable identification.
So why all this talk about chemistry in spiritual work? I suppose maybe it's pretty boring stuff–and I will confess, if there was one subject I hated more than any other in high school, it was chemistry.
Man, without a doubt, is a chemical and electrical being. Every spiritual experience is mediated by these forces. We can talk all we like about many paths, but there is only one chemistry. The chemistry of spirituality, of enlightenment, is a fixed entity, not one that varies from human being to human being. There is absolutely no doubt that Gurdjieff got that right. The enlightenment of the Buddhists is the same enlightenment bestowed by Christ consciousness, the same rapture as the Sufi saints. There can be no difference, because there is no group of men that produces special chemicals outside the realm of what is possible in human biology.
Some may think that these ideas cheapen the spiritual quest; others might agree that it objectifies it. The good news is that one doesn't have to sit around titrating solutions in flasks and beakers in order to pursue a path. The chemistry of the human being is exquisitely attuned to respond to, and grow within, the conditions of life itself.
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May our prayers be heard.