S4/E28: The Saga of the Centers
Published January 6th, 2022
The Saga of the Centers
In this podcast we will share with you something that is quite different from Russell’s usual podcasts. It is a story that unfolds over many decades concerning teachings given to a group of Doctors in Arizona about the development of our lower and higher centers, their functions, as well as our responsibility to them.
Welcome to a series of talks about objective consciousness, an objective Universe, and an objective way to awaken, expanding upon the works of George I. Gurdjieff and Russell A. Smith.
In this podcast I will share with you something that is quite different from Russell’s usual podcasts. It is a story that unfolds over many decades concerning teachings given to a group of Doctors in Arizona about the development of our lower and higher centers, their functions, as well as our responsibility to them.
It began when Russell was invited to Arizona to speak with a group of doctors who had gotten their hands on a copy of the manuscript to Russell’s first book, Gurdjieff: Cosmic Secrets, before it had been published. They had been studying the Fourth Way for many decades and wanted to learn as much as they could about Gurdjieff’s work. And after reading Russell’s manuscript, they called him and asked him if he would be willing to come to Arizona, for a week, and talk with them about its contents. To which he agreed.
Apparently, over several decades, Russell was one of many individuals who had been invited to speak with them about such things.
They had tried everything. They brought in Fourth Way experts from all over the world, as well as practiced Gurdjieff’s movements. And, at present, they were working with a lady who knew everything there was to know about body types and Enneagram types, and as such, had told each of them what their type was.
One evening, a formal dinner was held, where half of the group served and acted as waiters for the other half, then they switched places, and repeated the process. Russell, and the lady who was teaching them about body types and Enneagram types, were also there.
It was quite an ordeal.
After serving each group but before eating, the lady who was teaching them about body types and Enneagram types, reminded each of them as to what their type was, and then elaborated as to why.
So, needless to say, the dinner took quite some time.
When it finally concluded, the Enneagram type’s teacher departed. That is, after exchanging the customary, “Thank you so much for being here,” and, “It was my pleasure.”
Whereafter, they all gathered around Russell and excitedly asked him what he thought about what she had said about their types, to which he replied, “You are all the same type, you are asleep.”
Silence filled the room, as they were taken aback by what he said.
In order to disprove or perhaps prove the efficacy of his statement, they all went to Texas and studied Gurdjieff: Cosmic Secrets with him, and then performed The Objective Exercise, and when they did, they awoke.
In celebration of that, they ushered Russell back to Arizona, and had another superb dinner, but this time, they did it without the body type and Enneagram type teacher being present, as she was no longer their body type and Enneagram type teacher.
At that gathering, there were no blatherings about nonsense.
Instead, they smiled at each other like Cheshire Cats.
However, there was one toast at the beginning, where Russell raised his glass and said, “Congratulations, you are all still the same type, you are awake.”
To which they all cheered!
From that day forward, they abandoned their other teachers, and subsequently began to memorize 1,001 words of memory work, in order to obtain the Master Exercises and the Double or Nothing Exercise, which they all accomplished in due haste. And quickly thereafter, attained the Reason and Impartiality that is commensurate with those exercises.
Over the decades which followed, they often visited Russell in Texas; some … even moved there. But mostly, his teachings were conducted during weekly conference calls, wherein they would often tell him of how well they were doing as doctors, as well as how their stature in the medical community had substantially risen, and as such, they all went on to be great successes.
However, as they were all 20 years older than Russell, they have since all been lost to the world.
At this point, I will let Russell continue telling the story in his own words.
Russell: I miss them all, as they were not only great human beings, but also great and cherished friends.
That being said, I will now share with you what I shared with them in one of our conference calls, as several of them were now working with others, and as such, they requested that I share with them my understanding of our centers, as to their development, their function, as well as our responsibility to them.
The Work tells us that we have six centers: the Instinctive Center, the Moving Center, the Emotional Center, the Intellectual Center, the Higher Emotional Center, and the Higher Mental Center. But what exactly are they, how do we develop them, what is their function, and what is our responsibility to them?
Let’s start with the Instinctive Center.
The Instinctive Center connects us to the outside world. Everything in the Instinctive Center is based on impulses that came from the outside world, like cold, hot, wet, and dry.
We orient ourselves by interpreting those sensual impressions.
The Instinctive Center is our base state. It is the center which keeps us from walking off a tall building or touching a hot stove, because after having done similar things, we can know the results of those actions without having to again experience them.
Okay, now that we have a center that can recognize a comfort zone of existence, we need to have a center that can keep us there.
Enter the Moving Center.
How is the Moving Center developed, what is its function, and what is our responsibility to it?
The Moving Center is developed through learned behavior, and as such, it allows us to maneuver easily through the external world.
The Moving Center functions in response to impressions which have been registered in the Instinctive Center. Thus, the instinctive and moving centers function symbiotically; one registers impressions, and the other responds to them. That is, if I am cold, I will move to where it is warmer, and if I feel rain, I will move out of the rain, etc.
Student: Is it still considered movement if a baby in the womb who has not yet acquired the moving center, moves?
Russell: Yes, it is. Even though they do not have a fully developed Moving Center, there can be movement, as their Instinctive Center is inextricably connected with their Moving Center, which means that any stimulus to the former, will activate the latter.
Next, we have reflexive movements, but in order to have reflexive movements, we still need to have sensations that trigger them.
However, as Ouspensky mentioned, most reflexive movements are not reflexive movements, because in order to be a reflexive movement it must first be learned. That is, if I threw a soft foamy ball at a baby’s head, the baby would not try to catch it. Instead the ball would just bounce off its head. However, after being hit by the ball several times, the baby might try to catch it or deflect it. But sooner or later, those actions will become mechanical, and as such, they will appear to be reflexive actions, but in truth, they will just be learned movements that have become mechanical.
Student: It seems that by developing some control over sensations, we develop some control over reflexive movements as well. I say that because I have a patient who is having sharp pains in her hip, which causes her hip to turn in, but once her body got used to the pain, she developed some sort of conscious control over her hip, and as such, her hip stopped turning in.
Russell: Yes. After some time, she most likely placed the pain, as well as her reaction to it, in a higher part of her centers.
The example I like to use is Randy White, a defensive tackle for the Dallas Cowboys. Who when the ball was hiked, and the offensive lineman raised his hands to block him, it would make Randy blink. So, in order to not blink, Randy would sit for hours and hit his facemask with the side of his hand, until he learned how not to blink.
Or in the TV series Zorro, when the bad guy wants to verify if Zorro’s assistant who is pretending to be deaf, is indeed deaf. So he stands behind him and fires a shot into the air to see if it will startle him, but fortunately, Zorro’s assistant sees the shadow of the gun on the ground, and therefore, is not startled when it fires, and thus convinces the bad guy that he is indeed deaf. Whereafter, the bad guy talks in front of him, believing that his conversations cannot be heard, but since they are, the bad guy's efforts always get thwarted by Zorro.
So, by either hitting your facemask with your hand, or by seeing the shadow of the gun on the ground, it is possible to have control over reflexive movements.
Okay, that pretty much covers the Moving Center, and our responsibility to its development, so now, let's discuss the Emotional Center.
Student: Russ, before we do that, may I ask what you mean by our responsibility to its development?
Russell: Sure, since movements are acquired, it is a good thing to acquire as many of them as we can. That is, to learn to run, jump, dance, flip, and play the game Operation, in order to have control over as many movements as we can, because we never know when we may have to dance.
Student: So, when you say that our responsibility is to develop those centers, are you saying that our obligation is to expand their development?
Russell: Yes, I am.
And, by so doing, we will not only be contributing to their development, but to the development of our machine as a whole, because our machine is nothing other than a set of connected parts. And the better the parts work, the better the machine works. But, as Doctors, you already know that.
Student: Yes, we do, and we got it, Russ, thank you very much.
Russell: You are most welcome.
Now, to the Emotional Center.
How is it developed, what is its function, and what is our responsibility to it?
Student: I think I know; emotions are created by meaning. That is, when we attach meaning to things, they become emotional, kind of like what a mother does with her children. But I am not sure if that is the Emotional Center or the Higher Emotional Center.
Russell: That definition better fits the Emotional Center than the Higher Emotional Center.
The Emotional Center started to function when animals began to recognize their young, which was probably one of the first moments of emotion. Every species before that, ate their young when they encountered them. Then, all of a sudden, one of them went, wait a minute, you smell familiar, I think I gave birth to you, and as such, did not eat them.
And yes, the key word is meaning, meaning engenders emotions.
In addition, emotions and sensations are connected; they are both of essence. Emotions are a higher form of sensations. And emotions are always triggered by sensations.
Student: Emotions are always triggered by sensations?
Russell: Yes, they are.
Emotions are just another way of responding to incoming sensations. That is, sensations do not just trigger movement; they also have meaning, which creates emotion and incites feeling. For instance, if I jumped out and went ‘Boo,’ you may not only be startled, but you may also for an instant be afraid, which is an emotional response to an instinctive stimulus.
We have three levels of essence; each with its own layer of perspicacity, which collectively allows us to better orient ourselves in life.
Whenever I explain the first level, I like to use the example of the fish who gets caught.
What a traumatic moment.
Imagine something like that happening to you!
You get yanked out of a medium where you can breathe, into a medium where you cannot. Do you think you would remember that event? Fish cannot, as they have no Emotional Center that assigns meaning. That is, they have no Emotional Center that causes that event to be recorded in the Intellectual Center, making the memory of it permanent, and thus, cautioning them from repeating it.
Student: Does that also relate, especially to the emotional remembrance of that event, to other similar events, as a kind of feedback?
Russell: Yes, it does. Remember how Gurdjieff talked about the anode and cathode beginnings, and the three totalities of functioning, and how we are not only dependent on new impressions coming in, but also on similar impressions which have come in before?
That is, if an incoming impression has no similar impressions that have come in before, we will be inclined to hesitate, but, if there are similar impressions, we will not.
Unfortunately, we often attach the meaning of previous impressions to new impressions, and as such, miss the meaning of the new impressions, because we labeled them with previous labels.
For example: I once knew a man that was very wealthy, who took his two daughters camping in the wilderness for several weeks. When they got back, because he had such a good time with them, he decided to buy them both a brand-new Bentley, so he stopped at the Bentley dealership on the way into town. However, when he walked into the dealership, no one wanted to wait on him, because after being in the wilderness for several weeks, he looked like a bum. Then finally, a rookie salesman approached him and asked, “Can I help you?” When he did, the man bought three brand new Bentleys from him, and paid for them in cash! Boy, were the other salesmen miffed.
Or if someone had lied to you in the past, you may believe that they are lying to you in the present. Much like the story of the boy who cried wolf.
Perhaps, you have experienced such things. If so, you may now rejoice. That is, before receiving the Double or Nothing Exercise, it was nigh impossible for you to be impartial, and as such, to label things with unbiased eyes, and therefore, it was not your fault. Whereas, after receiving the Double or Nothing Exercise, you can now label things with unbiased eyes, and therefore, it can’t be your fault.
Student: So, do I have this right? The meaning we attach to incoming impressions comes from our Emotional Center, which is how it should be. However, if we only see the meaning that we previously attached to similar impressions, that would be identification?
Russell: Yes, you have it right.
However, to some extent, we do need to have the previous impressions as well. That is, we need to have both the anode and cathode beginnings in all our centers, as described by Gurdjieff, in order for us to orient ourselves properly.
Fortunately, we can apply the Double or Nothing Exercise to the previously perceived impressions and achieve proper orientation, without becoming identified with them.
You have all heard me tell the story about the little animal who had developed an Emotional Center, who wobbled out of its burrow to forage for grubs and berries and heard a sound that it had never heard before, r-e-e-k---r-e-e-k. And how, all of a sudden, it felt something digging into its sides. It had been grabbed by a bird, who was trying to pick it up and carry it away, but fortunately, it wiggled, and broke free. And how, as a result, it instinctively darted back into its burrow.
Now, what do you think will happen the next time it wobbles out of its burrow to forage for grubs and berries and hears that same sound?
Student: It is going to dash for the hole in the ground!
It is not going to wait for the claws this time, but it will immediately retreat to its burrow. That sound now means something, and as such, the little animal will have an emotional response to it, which is how its intellectual Center gets developed.
Its Intellectual Center is based on meanings that were previously perceived. That is, on meanings that are similar, which create a database that can be remembered, like getting hit in the head with the soft foamy ball.
But for those animals who do not have an Emotional Center, and as such, cannot assign meaning, they are destined to only react to incoming impressions, and not to a database of similar impressions previously perceived.
Thus, a fish will get hooked again and again. But a deer is different. If you want to catch a deer, you will have to wear camouflage, put on deer scent, sit in a blind, and do all sorts of things.
Okay. We have just brought in the Intellectual Center to our discussion of the Emotional Center. But, no problem, as the two are inextricably connected. Similar meanings begin to form memories, which kick starts the Intellectual Center.
That is, the Intellectual Center’s function is based on the meaning that was given to previous sensations that are similar. And, the more similar sensations you have, the greater your intellectual force.
Furthermore, whenever you move up to a higher center, the higher center rules the rest. That is, if someone points a gun into the air, a six-shooter, and pulls the trigger six times: bang, bang, bang, bang, bang, and bang, and then they point the gun at you, you will not be afraid. Why? Well, because you know, intellectually, that six-shooters only have 6 bullets, and as such, there are no bullets left in the gun that can hurt you. You may still have a modicum of fear because someone has pointed a gun at you, but your Intellectual Center will say, “I have counted the bangs, and there are no bullets left.”
That is, there is something in us that can intellectually stop the impression of fear from registering in our Emotional Center, and the impression of needing to dodge the bullet from registering in our Moving Center.
Student: That really explains what identification is, doesn’t it?
Russell: Yes, it does. It most certainly does.
What does it mean to be identified?
It means that we have become fixed on one thing.
Isn’t that what we are primarily talking about, fixating on one thing; like Pavlov’s dog, the bell rings and the food is given, the bell rings and the food is given. Thus, there is a connection between the sound of the bell and the food, and as such, the dog will become identified when the bell rings, which means that the food is coming, and thus he starts to salivate.
But what will happen if you went through a whole bunch of different sounds: You rang a bell, and fed the dog, blew a horn, and fed the dog, clapped your hands, and fed the dog, shook a bush, and fed the dog, stomped your feet, and fed the dog. Maybe the dog will become so used to hearing different sounds, that it wouldn't equate any particular sound with being fed, and thus, would not become identified.
Student: Identification comes from the emotional center then?
Russell: Yes. The Emotional Center assigns meaning, and without meaning there can be no identification. Lower centers may seem to possess identification, but in truth they do not. For instance: If I was sitting on a soft pillow because it was more comfortable than sitting on a hard chair, that would not be an identification, but rather, because I found the soft pillow to be more comfortable than the hard chair. Likewise, no one here would think that I was sitting on the pillow because of identification, at least I don’t think you would. However, if I gruffly exclaimed, “Where the heck is my pillow?” Then, you might believe me to be identified, because how I said what I said sure sounded like an emotional response.
Student: In kung fu type movies, the so-called higher-developed fighters have the ability to dodge bullets; how practical is that?
Russell: Well, dodging bullets is very practical for Hollywood, but not so much for the corner of Fifth and Main. However, you are probably not talking about dodging bullets, but about acquiring heightened attention, which happens because our Higher Centers function at higher speeds, which makes things appear to be happening in slow motion. I think most of us have experienced such things.
Okay. That opens the door to us talking about the Higher Centers.
The first Higher Center is the Higher Emotional Center. How do we develop that center, what is its function, and what is our responsibility to it?
Sadly, for most human beings, there is no such thing as the Higher Emotional Center because they first must awaken it, which they have no idea of how to do, and because of that, they have no knowledge of its development. But fortunately, everyone here has awakened their Higher Emotional Center. So, with that being said, you have already completed the development part.
Now, on to its function.
In the animal kingdom, social animals still have a Higher Emotional Center. Thus, we will start there.
What higher functions can be seen in social animals?
Russell: Also correct.
Student: It seems that social animals have highly developed lower centers. Perhaps, that is why they unified in the first place, and thus stay unified.
Russell: Yes, and Yes. And as such, they have acquired the properties of conscience, loyalty, and morality.
The Higher Emotional Center, which you are now all experiencing, is the first center to recognize that it is part of a collective of other beings similar to itself, and therefore, has an obligation to them.
Following the Higher Emotional Center is the Higher Mental Center, which again, most people are only destined to read about. Whereas, everyone here, after completing 1,001 words of memory work and receiving the Master Exercises and the Double or Nothing Exercise, which I must say, is perhaps the most important exercise ever discovered, are able to say, with certainty, that they have actually acquired it.
Hopefully, someday, every human being will be able to say the same. But until then, your obligation, since you have acquired the Double or Nothing Exercise, is to simply apply it to everything you ever thought, or ever imagined, so that you can move through life with impunity and impartiality.
If you do that, you will experience the most phenomenal life imaginable; one that is unencumbered by the desires of your lower centers, or the labels given to impressions previously perceived.
So, from this day forward, evaluate where you stand in relation to your Instinctive Center, your Moving Center, your Emotional Center, your Intellectual Center, and to your newly awakened Higher Emotional Center and your Higher Mental Center, and strive to always fulfill your responsibility to them, as well as to others.
Students: [Almost in unison]. We will Russ. We will.
With what you have given us, we all plan to be the best human beings we can be, as well as approach everyone we meet, with Reason and Impartiality.
Thank you so much for not only sharing the saga of the centers with us, but for helping us all to attain them.
Do you have anything else for us?
Russell: Yes, I do. I will leave you with one more thing. The poem No Man Is an Island by John Donne.
No man is an island,
Entire of itself,
Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thy friend's
Or of thine own were:
Any man's death diminishes me,
Because I am involved in mankind,
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;
It tolls for thee.
That completes today’s podcast.
Thank you for listening.
If you have any questions that you would like answered, please send them to email@example.com, and we will endeavor to answer them, and perhaps ... even include them in a future podcast.
In addition, you may now pose questions at our new Telegram group THEDOG Teachings, which is open to everyone to join and participate in.
You may also find us on Instagram at THEDOG Teachings, where we have posted all of Gurdjieff’s Aphorisms and THEDOG school’s DOG TALES, as well as simple explanations of many diagrams and models.
Or if you would like to purchase Russell Smith’s book, The Blueprint of Consciousness, a 520-page hardback, which is also available for PDF download, or learn more about the subjects and exercises we have been exploring, you can do so by going to thedogteachings.com.
That’s T H E D O G teachings DOT COM.
There, you will be able to listen to other talks, obtain diagrams, animations, supporting videos, and much, much more.
But most importantly, you will have real time access to the materials we are discussing.
Goodbye, until next time.