The higher and lower minds consist of three entities that engage with the ordinary world — the ordinary parts — and their corresponding “mirror entity” parts that reside in the higher part of being, that is, the organic part. Seen from the perspective of the enneagram, the progression for each of the two sides of being, the natural or worldly and the spiritual or conscious part, is simplified and has some important implications we will get to later. For the time being, however, I’ve laid out a linear chart, which is far more static and less accurate, but gives a geometric representation of the relationship.
There are multiple ways of representing this, but I’ve chosen one I think keeps it simple, insofar as that is possible. The diagram relates directly to the enneagramatic version, since the spiritual parts have a light green color, in the natural parts a blue one. Readers who study both diagrams will see that, for obvious reasons, it’s impossible to lay out the interactive relationships correctly in this first format, but never mind. The important thing here is to understand that each of the centers has a lower and a higher part.
Within the context of both natural and spiritual being, movement along the access determines which center dominates at any particular moment. This has to be a fluid and changing environment whether one is in the higher or lower centers, because the parts need to vary their responses depending on which one is most needed at a given moment. The difference between the higher in the lower centers is that there is far more fluidity in the higher ones. Within the realm of natural being, human beings tend to get “stuck” in a particular center and continually react from it, which can be called habit. This arises from identification, that is, a failure to distinguish between Being and existence. Being is conscious awareness; existence is the simple fact of material manifestation.
The point of intersection between the higher and lower minds is indicated with a yellow circle outlined in red. Each of the three lower intellects as a point of intersection with the higher part of its intellect in which conscious awareness can manifest and bring them into relationship; but this point of intelligence, conscious manifestation, is usually passive, that is, inactive. The horizontal line between the green spiritual box and the blue natural one represents the intersection of the higher and lower awareness.
On the left side of the diagram, one sees a vertical scale between conscious awareness and sleep. Awareness can be located anywhere on this line; the higher up, the more conscious and awareness is, and the lower down, the less. This is a lawful arrangement applies to both the higher in the lower minds. It goes some way towards explaining why Gurdjieff said there were many different levels of consciousness. Awareness moves along both the X and the Y axis of this diagram at all times.
Each center has its own three parts. So, the lower mind has a physical, emotional, an intellectual component, which we are calling body, emotion, and mind for the sake of consistency. The same is true for each of the three centers. The situation becomes quite complicated, because these three parts are in constant movement or rotation “around the center” of each center. Taking intellect, for example, the triangle represents the “central” or whole manifestation of intellect, and its intellectual, sensational, and feeling parts orbit around it in a constant rotation, so that at any given moment, one of these three parts might be touching the lower mind. The same can be said for the lower mind; so there is a constant exchange of information between all three of the parts of both the higher and the lower centers.
This may seem confusing; and indeed it is nearly useless to try and analyze this or pick it apart during ordinary functioning, no matter what level of intelligence one is functioning at. Yet it's helpful to understand how complex and interactive the system is, because it helps explain why human thought — for example, this is also true of sensation and feeling — displays such an extraordinary range of potential and expression. Completely iterated, there are 27 different ways in which the higher and lower minds can touch each other as their constituent parts rotate, which is why there are 27 types. I haven't bothered to draw out the chart, but in order to understand that, just imagine that where mind intersects with intellect, the physical, emotional, or intellectual part of lower mind can at any given time intersect with the intellectual, physical, or feeling part of higher mind, thus, 3 x 3 =9 different potential arrangements here. Each individual has, as a rule, a dominant contact between two of these lower parts of higher and lower centers within each center. The way that those parts interact with one another determines what Gurdjieff called type. Everyone is, no matter what their level of being, under some minor level of influence from the higher parts, and they "color" the functioning of the lower parts.
The most important function of this diagram is to emphasize the role of active awareness and bringing the higher and lower parts into relationship with one another. While man is generally dominated by the influences of natural being and usually has a deep investment in that portion of awareness, ignoring the spiritual side, it is also possible for a human being to develop in the other direction and become excessively spiritual. This will result from a withdrawal from the real world; and it's generally understood in the Gurdjieff system, as well as Sufi disciplines and some other practices, that such withdrawal is undesirable, because the whole point of manifestation within a body is to occupy the intersection between these two worlds, not favor one over the other in either direction.
It would be remiss to finish this discussion of theory without wrapping up with an examination of the enneagram that relates to the question, because that diagram is a far more accurate representation (insofar as anything two-dimensional and static can be) then the first diagram, which could turn out to be deeply misleading without its companion. When I drew this diagram, the most striking thing about it to me was the gap between sol and fa, or, mind and sensation. Readers will note there is no direct linear connection between four and five in the diagram. The "gap" in this location is a visual indicator of why it is so difficult for any individual to acquire a permanent sensation. It also gives a clue as to the process needed in order to do that. A study of the diagram and the progression between notes 4, 2, 8, 5 yields a precise explanation of the nature of the work necessary for sensation to become active, permanent, and voluntary. That is the point of work at which remarkable new things can begin to happen, because at this point sol the spiritual functions acquire a certain level of mastery over the natural ones.
Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.