Saturday, November 2, 2013

The three brains

Last night, someone asked what Gurdjieff meant by the idea that we have three brains. It's an interesting question; and in the end, it goes to the heart of what it means to be alive and to have Being.

 Brains are sensory tools. They are designed to know — to come into intimate relationship with – and to understand — to contextualize — the nature of Being itself. And we don't have just one of these, which thinks. There are three of them. Each one of them performs a different overall function in the human psyche, and there is no human psyche unless all three are functional.

 The first brain is the brain of the body. This is conventionally understood, in the Gurdjieff practice, to be manifest through sensation. This brain is tactile and understands Being through the actual fact of material existence, unmediated and directly experience. It is designed to be in relationship within the context of that experience. It corresponds, in a general sense, to the note Re on the enneagram, which represents materiality. It is the brain that represents the manifestation of material existence, and actually functions as the holy affirming factor in the development of the first triad 142. Sensation is the affirmation of existence and, by proxy, of God.

 The second brain is the brain of the emotions. This brain understands the human locus of movement, or force, within the context of compassion. At least that is what it ought to do. Compassion is one of the most essential elements in the creation of both the universe and of Being; and the brain that senses emotionally is there in order exclusively to manifest the many aspects of Divine Love. Nothing real in life can be understood without this function, yet it is badly broken in mankind. It represents the note Mi, or desire, in the first triad. It acts as the holy reconciling factor.

 The third brain — the one we are generally involved with most of the time — is the brain of the thinking center. One of its major mechanical functionaries is what Gurdjieff called formatory apparatus, which is actually just a set of gears that turn. It doesn't do any real thinking; it's just a processor, incapable of any real function without a higher algorithm to direct it. Left to its own devices — which is the condition it is almost always in — it just produces an endless stream of nonsense, mixing up everything it encounters and mashing it into a confused pulp which we mistake for real food, and digest. This brain is capable of formulating correctly, but only if it is in full relationship with the other two brains. It represents the note Fa in the first triad, that is, power, since the power to Be is intimately tied to the ability to consciously understand with this part. And it functions as holy denying; put simply, it thinks it is God.

The three brains function independently of one another in man, even though they ought to function in conjunction. The reason that Gurdjieff called man as he is "man," that is, man in quotation marks,  is because partial functioning — the investment of function in one particular brain without referring to the others — is not what it means to be human. It is, in fact, decidedly inhuman, and it is partial functioning in mankind that produces all of the results in society which are clearly inhuman, that is, lacking in any of the enlightened values we claim to hold so dear.

What is important to remember here is that each of these brains is a whole method of being. If we seek to be in relationship, that is, invested in, the functioning of any one of these three brains, we cannot "try" to be "inside "that brain. We cannot make the effort from outside of the function.

The effort comes from within the function.

 I will speak bit more about this tomorrow.

 May your soul be filled with light.



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