S4/E12: The Emotional Center vs Formatory Apparatus

Published September 16th, 2021

The Emotional Center vs Formatory Apparatus

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.

Continuing our talks on Work questions and answers, in this podcast we will narrate a dialogue between Russell and one of his students about the Emotional Center and its proper function with the Formatory Apparatus.


Let’s begin:


Russell:  Hello, are you.


Student:  I am doing great. How about yourself?

Russell:  Doing super. Did you have a good finish to your day?


Student:  Yep, I did, I did, I sure did. Very, very nice.

Russell:  Good. What did you do?


Student:  Oh, I got some chores done, and while doing them, I ran into a friend of ours and talked with him for an hour or two, then I came home and, let’s see, what else did I do, I played with the kids, which seems to occupy a lot of my time.

Russell:  That’s always a good way to spend an evening. Did you get my favorite boys to bed okay?


Student:  Well, they are in the process, they are resisting the idea.

Russell:  Such is the nature of youth.


Student:  Yep.

Russell:  We did that too.


Student:  We sure did, I still do!!

Russell:  Yeah, but you do not have your mom or dad telling you that it’s time for bed.


Student:  Exactly. But I still don’t like to go to bed, I like to stay up and do whatever I think needs to be done.

Russell:  Yes, sir. That is what happens when the decisions of life shift from our parents to us.


Student:  Indeed.

Well, how is everybody at the school?

Russell:  Everybody is doing great. Everything is perfect.


Student:  Actually, I took some notes on some things that I wanted to ask you about.

Russell:  Oh, great. Go.


Student:  When I see the kids, I am happy. Is that the formatory apparatus or the emotional center?

Russell:  Well, everything goes through the Formatory Apparatus. So the question really is, which center is sending it there. There is a good chance that it is coming from the emotional center since your kids bring you joy.

The Formatory Apparatus is just this place where the impressions get coded and decoded. That is, if you put your hand on a hot skillet, a message comes from the instinctive center, saying your hand is burning. And then the formatory apparatus, the secretary that works there, has to decode it and send a message to the moving center saying, Move your hand!


Student:  Right.

What about the more complex social I’s, personality kinds of reactions or connections?

Russell:  They are still something that needs to be registered.

You saw your old friend today. When you did, an impression came in of an individual who the secretary was tasked with identifying. She had to open her drawer, and pull out the files of known individuals, to see which one matched the impression that was coming in, and then said, oh, that’s Bill, my old friend. Then she sent a message to the mouth telling it to say, “Hi Bill,” and also to the hand to reach out and greet him. All of that was done through the formatory apparatus; including all the times that she couldn't find the name.


Student:  So, are you saying that the formatory apparatus is not something that we have to destroy, but simply, something we have to train to make better connections?

Russell:  Yes, sir. That is exactly what I am saying. The formatory apparatus is something that must exist in the world of humans. And again, it is not the formatory apparatus that is the problem, it is the secretary that works there that is the problem.

As Gurdjieff said, the formatory apparatus is just an office which has all these appliances, adding machines, typewriters, and such. He then depicted the secretary who works there, as a young girl who spends most of her day preening herself, and thinking about her date.

Do you have a secretary at the Law firm where you work?


Student: Oh, yes.

Russell:  Imagine if the other people who work there never communicated with her, nor she with them. After a while, she would be compelled to start answering all of the legal questions that come in. Do you see what I am saying?


Student:  Yes, I do.

Russell:  Her manifestations would be what we call formatory, which sees things in opposites and in two’s: you are either a client or you are not, a republican or democrat, good or bad, black or white etc.


Student:  Which is the definition of mechanical, right?

Russell:  Yes, indeed. And she labels things in a particular way, which is a reflection of her youth and education. It is either, cool man, awesome bro, radical dude, or salty. Thus, when an impression comes in, she puts her favorite label on it and sticks it in the same file as everything else. Which is why, later on, she has trouble finding things.


Student:  Well, how does that fit in with the centers?

Russell:  The centers are the four directors who never show up, and thus have stopped communicating with her.


Student:  Ah. Okay.

Russell:  They used to communicate directly with each other as well, but Gurdjieff tells us in the chapter on the Formatory Apparatus in Views, that the connection between them has become thick, and as such, they can no longer communicate with each other. The only contact they now have with each other is through the Formatory Apparatus. Thus, they have to send their messages through her, and depend on her ability to code and decode them properly and then send them to the appropriate director.

He further says that typically, 50% of the messages which arrive in the Formatory Apparatus come from the Instinctive Center, 40% come from the Moving Center, and 10% come from the Emotional Center. But, at present, the situation is even worse, because 75% of the messages that come out of the Formatory Apparatus, come from the secretary who works there, and are made entirely of her own accord, without any input from the other centers.

So, that is what we have to work on. We have to try to stop the secretary from biasing everything with her formatory way of thinking, her quick labels, and her automatic responses. 

We experienced this when we were growing up, everything was ‘cool.’ For my kids, it was ‘radical.’ And for my grandchildren, it is, ‘salty.’


Student:  Yeah. And we did not realize to what extent those labels tainted our vision and interpretation of things.

Russell:  That is correct.

We gave things the same label, which means there was no flavor to things, no distinction between this or that. And, to make matters even worse, we developed fixed opinions about cultures, ethnic groups, or people of different color, which was inculcated in our secretary by either our parents, our friends, or our social climate. However, that is not the way it is. Those labels may apply to some, but the secretary applies them to all. 

So, the view you had of your children was most likely coming from your Emotional Center, although it was somewhat tainted by your secretary. 


Student:  Yes, I can clearly see that now. We quickly attach labels like, “My kids are special, beautiful, and perfect.”

Russell:  You got it.

Yet, attaching quick labels can be a good thing. If you smell smoke, do you really want to take time to analyze what is burning ... or just to get out of the house?


Student:  Right. So, in some cases the fight or flight syndrome serves a purpose.

Russell:  Yes, when our survival depends on it, but that is kundabuffer -  nature has a way of pushing things down to the bottom, down to the Jacks, to where they become automatic. Unfortunately, that happens in the Intellectual Center as well. Things get shoved down into the Jack, the Formatory Apparatus, where the secretary works. However, as beings of reason, we need to have an umpteen number of choices, not just the automatic formatory ones, which usually appear as opposites or in groups of two.


Student:  Well, I think that adequately answers that question.

Russell:  Well, good sir.


Student:  And going back to the part about seeing my buddy, I can see now that the Formatory Apparatus did just what you said it did. And then, afterwards, it acted very mechanically, “Hey, how are you doing, long time no see…

Russell:  Yes, sir.


Student:  And, even if you do not want to say it, you are going to say it.

Russell:  That’s right. Then as men, you shake their hand and slap them on the back.


Student:  Precisely.

Russell:  Then you ask them if they want a drink, or a coffee, etc., and go through the, as Gurdjieff called them, the bon ton, customary manifestations, like, oh, I am sorry, I heard that your friend died.

Remember that from Life is Real?


Student:  Yes, absolutely. The thing about Orage.

Russell:  Yes. 

Student:  I suppose that even while all of that is going on, the emotional center still has some activity.

Russell:  Oh, yes. Let’s analyze it again. Here is this little gal sitting in front of four tv screens. Each of them is offering encoded impressions that are coming in from one of the four lower centers. So, she can look at all the screens, but she prefers to look at her favorite screen. And even though something is manifesting on another screen, she doesn’t pay attention to it, because she would rather watch what is happening on her favorite screen.


Student:  Okay.

Russell:  See this picture … Ouch, I didn't mean to make that a pun.


Student:  Well you did. And it was a great pun, and I do see the picture.

Russell:  Terrific. 

Furthermore, we could divide the screens into sub-screens that show the parts of centers.


Student:  Thus, all the subtle things on the other screens get lost.

Russell:  That’s correct.


Student:  Of course, I guess, one can see, as life got more and more complicated, with more and more details to deal with, that it is only natural and necessary that the formatory apparatus emerged. Afterall, it is the beginning of reason, which begins with the ability of comparing two things. But we just don’t want to stop there and be limited to only having two choices.

Russell:  That is correct. We want the secretary who works there to see a multitude of possibilities instead of just two.

Actually, we want the directors of the organization to show back up.

The directors represent the higher parts of our centers, the parts which take attention.

The mechanical parts have no attention, because they function automatically, and if that is all we have, then all we are is just a heart that is pumping blood, which needs no attention whatsoever.

So, the next time you get a bug on you, which draws your attention, try not to swat it!


Student:  Like a horse swishing its tail.

Russell:  Yes. Instead, look at it and say there is a bug crawling on my arm. It doesn’t look like a black widow spider or a brown recluse spider or something that is going to kill me. Besides, I am a lot bigger than it, and even if it does bite me, what great danger will it cause? And with that reasoning, you are able to reach over and gently brush it away. 


Student:  Instead, you feel that creepy feeling and automatically swat it.

Russell:  Yes.


Student:  That’s part of the exercise isn’t it; to identify all of those little knee-jerk reactions.

Russell:  That is correct.

Refraining from doing just that, gave birth to the way of the Fakir.

For me, it was eating oysters. I had to overcome all of the skewed impressions I had about oysters.


Student:  I used to be able to eat them until I discussed it with you!!

Russell:  Ha, ha, ha.


Student:  They are pretty grotesque, aren’t they.

Russell:  Yes, sir. 

We only like foods that our secretary is used to. Which probably are the foods that our momma fed us.


Student:  Indeed, those are the foods that I like.

Russell:  That’s it.

So the aim is to reeducate the secretary. And the only way of doing that is if somebody shows up and checks on her.

That’s why we have to have a Deputy Steward. He is the guy that is supposed to show up and check on her.


Student:  I got it.

Another question. Are we trying to stop associations when we do the three-fold attention exercise?

Russell:  No, we can’t stop associations. But we can put them in a certain direction and keep them in that direction.


Student:  Sometimes, when I do the Threefold Attention Exercise, I have an image of going down a ladder instead of going up.

Russell:  Ahhh.


Student:  My mind wanders. I definitely see the octave going down at the notes La and Fa, and when I do, I try to reinforce the octaves that came in at the Mi and the So, which caused me to go up.

Russell:  Good, sir. Wonderful, sir. That’s perfect.


Student:  I mean, that’s basically what’s happening.

Russell:  Yes it is. That’s exactly what’s happening. If you don’t intentionally create assisting forces, automatic forces will drag you down.


Student:  I used to meditate, which, at the time, was just a repetition of certain words that I tried to hold in my mind. But I now see that I was unable to do that because I did not bring in any assisting forces, like emotions.

Emotions are fantastically misunderstood, along with everything else.

To be able to bring emotions into the exercise, like we talked about this afternoon, is truly a gift. I used to think that emotions were something you wanted to get rid of.

Russell:  Yes, sir. We were all educated that way. Probably because all we had were negative emotions, and yeah, those we do want to get rid of.


Student:  We don’t know the subtlety of emotions. We don’t think of being emotional, for instance, when we are driving; well, a better example would be, the emotions we have when we are trying to fix the lawn mower, dadgummit, blast it, which are all negative emotions.

Russell:  Yes. You got it. How many guys have wrapped their golf club around a tree when they made a bad golf shot?


Student:  Indeed.

I am supposed to be writing a letter, it’s not a difficult letter, I am just writing a letter. Yet, I get flustered.

Russell:  Right.


Student:  It’s not a particularly difficult letter. It’s, “Dear Aunt Murgatroy, it was wonderful to see you the other day, and thanks for the gifts for the kids.” You know, nothing too sappy, just kind of, maybe, in the nature of cheerfulness or something, but something that does have an emotional motivating force.

Russell:  Yes. 

Question:  When you sit down to eat with your family, do you say grace?


Student:  Yes.

Russell:  Okay. Why do you say grace? You say grace because food is necessary for the continuation of your life. And, because of that, you have emotional thankfulness.


Student:  Say that again.

Russell:  The taking in of food is going to sustain your life. Therefore, there should be a certain emotional recognition of that, that is, by eating, you are going to stay alive, and that is a point for rejoicing.


Student:  Ahh, that’s true. I get it.

Russell:  And, when you acknowledge how wonderful that is, you will become emotionally thankful.

No wonder people invented the notion of saying grace. But then, of course, it became mechanical, and is now just uttered words which have no meaning.


Student:  Exactly. That is exactly right. So we should be feeling heartfelt thanks.

Russell:  Yes! Yes! Yes!

Question 2: Do you lock your door at night? If you do, do you get emotional with the fact that there is a lock on your door that might prevent someone from easily entering your house and jeopardizing your family? 


Student:  No I don’t.

Russell:  Well you should.

We take everything for granted and never feel what things mean. In the chapter in Beelzebub’s Tales to His Grandson, called The Fruits of Former Civilizations and the Blossoms of the Contemporary, where Hassein suddenly has the realization that many people had to do many things for him to have the comforts that he now has, and because of that, he started crying, is a great model of someone experiencing emotions for all the things we take for granted.


Student:  Exactly.

Russell:  Now, I don’t want you to go to the refrigerator, and every time you do, you go into tears. But I do want you to garner an emotional appreciation of it.


Student:  Ha, Ha … I will.

Russell:  That’s terrific.


Student: … but on the other hand, I told you about the experience I had of looking up at Alec’s picture and wanting to cry with joy.

Russell:  Yes. You did.


Student:  I now see we mostly hide emotions; put them in the background, and shut them off.

Russell:  That is correct. Or, the fact that you are so busy looking at another screen that you don’t see the impressions coming in from the screen that feels things. “Not right now, I am on the phone son,” … and then you don’t even notice the look on his face.


Student:  Yep, that is exactly what happens.

I recall that Ouspensky said the Emotional Center is much, much faster than the Intellectual Center.

Is what we are discussing simply a property of the speeds of centers, that is, in the time that it takes the Intellectual Center to label something, the Emotional Center sees the history of it? So that, when the Intellectual Center sees a boat and acknowledges it, the Emotional Center, in the same amount of time, sees the men who built the boat, as well as, all people who came before and sweated, cut off fingers, and died making boats, and therefore, it evokes a feeling about it?

Russell:  Yes.


Student:  Is that what emotion is?

Russell:  Yes. It is the cognition of things as a whole.

There is a chapter in Views from the Real World, where Gurdjieff talks about thinking in a new way; where you think about a thing's origin, what it is used for, and what came before it and after it, etc., do you remember reading that chapter?


Student:  Yes, but I haven’t read it recently.

Russell:  Well then, that would be a good chapter to review.


Student:  Yeah, that strikes me as being exactly right.

Russell:  We do not notice many of the things that occur in our lives. Primarily because we are focused on the next meal, the next lover, or the new outfit we want to buy. We are so occupied with those things, that we do not see the meaning of the other things.


Student:  Normally, when I look at a boat, I intellectually know that it is made of wood, which has to wetted and bent, or however they do it, and that is fastened with pins and nails, which somebody has to cast, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah; and would think of that as being an intellectual exercise, but now, based on what you have been telling me, and based on what Gurdjieff seems to be saying, I now see that it is more of an emotional exercise, it that correct?

Russell:  Yes, it is.


Student:  I remember you told me that the business of the Intellectual Center is about affixing labels, and now, when looking at the boat, I see that it is not about just affixing labels, but it is more about seeing what the boat is and how it got that way.

Russell:  Good. The intellectual part would be the fact that you recognize it as being a boat, and the emotional part would be the fact that you recognize what the boat is.


Student:  So, using the Intellectual Center, you recognize that it is a boat. But using the Emotional Center you see that it was once a tree growing in a forest and how that tree, through labor and effort, became a boat. Is that what the emotional center brings?

Russell:  Yes, it is.

Which will give you an emotional feeling about it.


Student:  Through our formatory apparatus?

Russell:  That’s correct. Your secretary will acknowledge the screen that is connected to the emotional center and you will have a feeling about it, because it is much bigger than just the intellectualness of being a boat that floats on water.


Student:  Wow. I am beginning to understand. Thank you for spending so much time helping me iron that out. I love you Russ.

Russell:  Back at ya sir, I love you too.


Before ending today's podcast, I would like to take a moment and acknowledge those who have made these podcasts, as well as my work, possible.

Firstly, to my wife Pamela, who spends hours and hours transcribing various audio and video recordings of me interacting with students, so that I can construct them into these podcasts.

And secondly, to Gary Eggleton, who so eloquently narrates them. 

In addition, I would also like everyone to know how Pamela, from the very beginning, was instrumental to the tremendous success of my work.

She was there when I first started teaching others, and was one of the first students to awaken.

Since that time, her unyielding devotion to the work and to me, as well as, her tireless efforts towards cooking, feeding, washing, and providing a clean and spotless environment for the hundreds of students who have come here over the past 30 years, is an undeniable testament to her belief in the truth that we have so freely shared. I could not have done what I have been able to do without such devotion and commitment.

So, thank you Gary for your terrific narration.

And, thank you Pamela for your dedication and unwavering support to both me and to those who have sojourned here.



That ends this question-and-answer session.


Thank you for listening.

If you have any questions that you would like answered, please send them to [email protected], and we will endeavor to answer them, and perhaps ... even include them in a future podcast. 

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There, you will be able to obtain Mr. Smith’s diagrams, models, videos, and listen to other talks, as well as learn all the mathematics that supports them, and much, much more.


But most importantly, you will have real time access to the materials we are discussing.


That’s thedogteachings.com


Goodbye until next time.

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