Many masters discuss this question. One might say it is the least foreign of these three pieces of territory that fall under examination in spiritual work.
In point of fact, Zen Buddhism is highly interested in the development of the organic intellect of being; while one hears very little about sensation or feeling in Zen, the emphasis and focus on the organic intellect of being is strong. One hears this also in Meister Eckhart's discussions and sermons; and one hears it in constant and very verbal references to “the silence” which one hears in the Gurdjieff work. I've pointed out the irony of this activity, talking about the silence, before.
There's an intelligence that does not use words, just as there are other parts of being that don’t use words. Sensation doesn’t use words; it can't. And feeling doesn't use words; it can't either. We are left with the peculiar dilemma that only the intellect can use words, but because that is part of the way that it functions. So when we discuss an intellect that does not use words, we speak of an intellect that can conceptualize and imagine; but that conceptualization and imagination are not verbal. They become verbal after the intellect acts; or, they don't.
I say, they may not—they don’t—because they do not always need to.
The organic intellect of being has the capacity to grasp everything that is necessary about a situation or fact without any words at all participating.
From the Greek language, we use a word for it which has come down to the present day, Eureka. Eureka means “I have found it;” traditionally, it’s said to have been the word that Archimedes used when he suddenly realized, sitting in the bathtub, that equal weights of gold and other less valuable metals would displace different amounts of water because of their relative densities.
Eureka is a moment in which something is comprehensively discovered; it instantly is understood from all its sides, in every aspect. Astute readers may remember that this is precisely how Gurdjieff described the word consciousness to Ouspensky in In Search of the Miraculous. The subject came up in the context of the word conscience, which is the eureka moment of feeling, but here we are examining it in terms of intellect:
" 'Conscience' is again a term that needs explanation.
"In ordinary life the concept 'conscience' is taken too simply. As if we had a conscience. Actually the concept 'conscience' in the sphere of the emotions is equivalent to the concept 'consciousness' in the sphere of the intellect. And as we have no consciousness we have no conscience. "Consciousness is a state in which a man knows all at once everything that he in general knows and in which he can see how little he does know and how many contradictions there are in what he knows. "Conscience is a state in which a man feels all at once everything that he in general
feels, or can feel.
—P.D. Ouspensky, In Search of the Miraculous, p. 154
Conscience is the same word as consciousness in the Latin tongues. We can see in this particular instance that the word was quite exactly used to mean not "conscience" that is, amorality as understood in the Western sense of the word, but feeling-consciousness, that is, a comprehensive and total awareness. That awareness is a eureka; and it consists of a conscious and comprehensive understanding and seeing of everything at one time, without any words. One ought to come back to this idea; because this idea of the Eureka moment, where everything is grasped comprehensively and in its entirety in a single instant, is a shared feature of the higher part of each function. Intellect, feeling, and sensation all have this capacity to grasp life in its entirety, and comprehensively, in a single instant when the higher part is functioning. They are on a different order of intelligence than our ordinary Being.
I'll fall back on some personal experience here in order to give readers some insight on the matter. I've often explained to my wife and others that one engages when one engages in a creative activity, whether it be writing, poetry, more music, there often comes a single incident in which one understands the entire scope of the question. The best example I can think of in my own life — and I have many, so I need to selective – was when I was speaking to a friend from the Gurdjieff foundation on Christmas Eve some seven years ago when I suddenly, in a single instant, had an insight that unlocked the secrets of the painting The Garden of Earthly Delights by Hieronymus Bosch.
In that single instant, I understood, in the broadest sense of the word, the entire scope of the painting, its subject, and everything that it was about. Without analyzing the individual details (I couldn't, the painting wasn't in front of me) I knew that this key unlocked the door and that it was possible, using it, to see every object in the room and understand its place and purpose. I have for the last seven years been working on that project, and it's true that there are some things which have taken me a bit of extra work to get out of the closet, which was very densely packed, as one might imagine. But the point is the understanding behind all of the writing I've done was comprehensive and instantaneous.
This was an example of the organic intellect of being in action. It can understand everything about a situation instantly, comprehensively. Now extend that intellectual capability to the feelings… and to your sensation… and think about what that means in relationship to what Gurdjieff called “three brained being.”
This capacity flows into the ordinary parts on a fairly regular basis in small amounts. It's called intuition, among other things or, instincts. Either word will suffice. The point is that when it flows into ordinary life, it vastly enhances understanding. It is meant to be a far more active part in life and balance equally with the ordinary intellect, but it rarely if ever does this. When it does so – that is, when it manifests strongly, — it usually does so in the presence of other significant imbalances which have tipped the scales towards this particular function. In those cases, the person is called a genius — and it turns out that again, in most cases, genius is accompanied by severe deficiencies in other areas. Autistic people are the best examples of this; some of them can be absolute geniuses in the organic intellect of Being when it comes, for example, to painting or music; but they are functional idiots in every other area, because they lack essential connections that ought to be there for the ordinary parts.
Those connectors act as necessary moderators which impart a certain practicality on this level; and while the lack of those connections for the ordinary parts has freed up a much larger pathway for the expression of the organic intellect of Being, this is a useless capacity when it takes place in the absence of a right relationship with the outer world and ordinary life. Here, one can see how important it is for the parts to develop harmoniously and in relationship with one another, and how absolutely important it is for these higher parts to have strong and healthy relationships with the lower ones, which are also absolutely necessary for functional being.
Well then. We've established that the organic intellect of being has an instantaneous capacity for grasping everything; and we have equally established that it needs a good connection to the lower parts in order for it to function well.
Yet perhaps it’s impossible, under ordinary circumstances— in the middle of ordinary life —to ask us to truly escape the constant and demanding chatter of the ordinary mind, the associative mind. Hence all of the emphasis on meditative practices to quiet the mind so that one can conduct an observance of the inflow without being identified with it. These practices can be quite helpful, because if a practitioner gets far enough into them, they experience what is called "opening" in the Gurdjieff work; there is an active separation between the higher and lower mind, such that the higher mind can begin to flow into Being more directly. This function is identical in action to the function of a voluntary sensation; and of course one hears that word talked about repeatedly in Jeanne Salzmann's "The Reality of Being."
Yet one does not hear anyone speak of the arrival of a voluntary intelligence, which absolutely must be spoken about now, if we want to understand this question properly.
Part 5 of this 6-part series will publish August 18.
Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.