Centres III (VRW)

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SEE: Glossary Gurdjieff

An ordinary man is ruled now by the mind, now by the feeling, now by the body. Very often he obeys orders coming from the automatic apparatus; a thousand times more often he is ordered about by the sex center. [VRW p. 246]

It is very important to understand one law. As a rule, at every moment of our life only one center works in us — either mind or feeling. Our feeling is of one kind when another center is not looking on, when the ability to criticize is absent. By itself a center has no consciousness, no memory; it is a chunk of a particular kind of meat without salt, an organ, a certain combination of substances which merely possesses a special capacity of recording.

Indeed it greatly resembles the coating of a recording tape.

If I say something to it, it can later repeat it. It is completely mechanical, organically mechanical. All centers differ slightly as to their substance, but their properties are the same.

Now, if I say to one center that you are beautiful, it believes it. If I tell it that this is red — it also believes. But it does not understand — its understanding is quite subjective. Later, if I ask it a question, it repeats in reply what I have said. It will not change in a hundred, in a thousand years — it will always remain the same. Our mind has no critical faculty in itself, no consciousness, nothing. And all the other centers are the same.

What then is our consciousness, our memory, our critical faculty? It’s very simple. It is when one center specially watches another, when it sees and feels what is going on there and, seeing it, records it all within itself.

It receives new impressions, and later, if we wish to know what happened the previous time, if we ask and search in another center, we will be able to find what has taken place in the first center. It is the same with our critical faculty — one center watches another. With one center we know that this thing is red, but another center sees it as blue. One center is always trying to persuade another. This is what criticism is.

If two centers go on for a long time disagreeing about something, this disagreement hinders us in thinking about it further.

If another center is not watching, the first continues to think as it did originally. We very seldom watch one center from another, only sometimes, perhaps one minute a day. When we sleep we never look at one center from another, we do so only sometimes when we are awake.

In the majority of cases each center lives its own life. It believes everything it hears, without criticism, and records everything as it has heard it. If it hears something it has heard before, it simply records. If something it hears is incorrect, for instance, something was red before and is blue now, it resists, not because it wants to find out what is right but simply because it does not immediately believe. But it does believe, it believes everything. If something is different, it only needs time for perceptions to settle down. If another center is not watching at the moment, it puts blue over red. And so blue and red remain together and later, when we read the records, it begins to answer: “red.” But “blue” is just as likely to pop out.

It is possible for us to ensure a critical perception of new material if we take care that, during perception, another center should stand by and perceive this material from aside. Supposing I now say something new. If you listen to me with one center, there will be nothing new for you in what I am saying; you need to listen differently. Otherwise as there was nothing before, so there will be nothing now. The value will be the same: blue will be red, or vice versa, and again there will be no knowledge. Blue may become yellow.

If you wish to hear new things in a new way, you must listen in a new way. This is necessary not only in the work but also in life. You can become a little more free in life, more secure, if you begin to be interested in all new things and remember them by new methods. This new method can be understood easily. It would no longer be wholly automatic but semi — automatic. This new method consists in the following: when thought is already there, try to feel. When you feel something, try to direct your thoughts on your feeling. Up to now, thought and feeling have been separated.

Begin to watch your mind: feel what you think. Prepare for tomorrow and safeguard yourselves from deceit. Speaking generally, you will never understand what I wish to convey if you merely listen.

Take all you already know, all you have read, all you have seen, all you have been shown-I am certain that you understand nothing of it. Even if you ask yourselves sincerely, do you understand why two and two make four, you will find that you are not sure even of that. You only heard someone else say so, and you repeat what you have heard. And not only in questions of daily life, but also in higher serious matters, you understand nothing. All that you have is not yours.

You have a garbage can and, until now, you have been dumping things into it. There are many precious things in it which you could make use of. There are specialists who collect all kinds of refuse from garbage cans; some make a lot of money this way. In your garbage cans you have enough material to understand everything. If you understand, you will know everything. There is no need to gather more into this garbage can — everything is there. But there is no understanding — the place of understanding is quite empty. [VRW p. 262-263]


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