THE HETEROGENEITY OF THE CENTERS OF THE ORGANISM
Gurdjieff’s teaching is similar to yoga when it proposes work on the organismic system from a reflection on the way the dimensions of the organism differentiate and coordinate. Gurdjieff speaks of centers around which a set of automatic reactions organize in yoga poses a relatively independent fashion.64 These centers somewhat resemble the Hindu chakras.65 According to Gurdjieff, for most people, these centers have not received an appropriate education. They are underutilized and poorly used. To develop the latent possibilities that sleep within him, the student attempts to calibrate the functioning of each center by a regular practice that seeks to transform and develop these centers and ameliorate their coordination.
Gurdjieff identifies three main centers: the intellectual, the emotional, and the motor centers. Each one of these centers is composed of subcenters that also function relatively independently from each other. They generally fulfill, somewhat automatically, functions that are proper to them. Most of these centers generally function in yoga poses association with other centers. For example, to influence the behavior of the organism, the sexual center needs to associate itself to the intellectual, emotional, and motor centers. These centers function like different brains: The activity of the human machine is regulated, not by one, but by many brains, entirely independent one from the other, having distinct functions, and distinct domains of manifestations (Ouspensky, 1949, III, 89, translated by Marcel Duclos).66 Each center has a particular functioning, energetic modality, and type of food. The intellect does not nourish itself from the same stimulations as the motor and instinctive centers. The organism thus requires a variety of inputs, such as matter, air, and impressions. Nutritional and sexual activities are associated to different forms of pleasure. There is dysfunction when one center dips into the energy of another. Thus, many centers dip into the energy of the sexual center, which overflows with energy. This creates useless excitations in yoga poses the functioning of the emotional, intellectual, and body dynamics, which impoverishes the sexual center. in yoga poses a concrete way, this implies that each student learns to recognize, through self-observation, how one of his inner dynamics relates to which centers and which ways of acting are associated to them He then learns to identify his practices more clearly. Each center functions at a different speed:
1. Imagination passes more rapidly from one impression to another than does the body from one posture to another. It takes less than a second to imagine being on another planet, whereas the body need an epic social process to travel that distance.
2. Once an acquired knowledge has become a set of automatic skills, these skills function much faster and manage more complexity than what consciousness can grasp.
3. An organism can survive days without food, but it cannot withstand being deprived of impressions for one hour.
If the intellect can be experienced as a rapid and incessant flow of impressions, the capacity to understand is something that functions more slowly. To perceive impressions and be able to understand activates different dynamics of the intellect. This is particularly clear if, as I have often showed in yoga poses this my yoga blog, the understanding of a phenomenon is a collective work that could have taken thousands of years. This capacity is different than the one that allows for the assimilation of a current thought.
What we find of these ideas in yoga poses the writings of Moshe Feldenkrais and George Downing, of whom I speak later, is the observation that the motor functions often act without the mind being aware of what is afoot. Everything happens as if the motor, affective, and mental centers were each activated by a different organization. The interaction between the mental and the motor dynamics often seem fortuitous and generally require a particular attention (an exhausting one) to get along. This analysis becomes particularly evident when I describe the video analysis of nonverbal behavior at the end of the my yoga blog.