1. The organic intellect of Being
Over the weekend, I spent some time at an intensive work day with a major work figure who is now quite elderly.
This individual well understood the principles I write about; and they transmitted them almost without error to those who were in attendance. This is unusual, because for the most part, even experienced folks don't seem to know precisely what they are talking about; and this person did. It's good to know that there are some who fully understand, on a basic level, the practical aspects of this teaching, what to emphasize, how to emphasize it, and how to go about acquiring a new understanding from an inward and organic point of view.
This brings us to a subject which needs more specific treatment. It arises as a consequence of some of the things that were said over the weekend; and while I would say that the person who was transmitting this Dharma did not say anything inaccurate, there were areas where more specific information and much more precise thinking was needed.
The individual spoke of the need for precision in inner work, but mostly in regard to sensation — which, fair enough, is indeed where most people need to concentrate their intelligible efforts.
But the question of the intellect and its role was largely left out, other than to say that the higher part of the intellect is silent.
At another point in the conversation, it was accurately indicated that both the higher and the lower part of every function need to participate together, to meet, in order for real inner work to take place; that's entirely true. Yet the description of the mind as silent when it is engaged in its higher functions is not entirely accurate; or, perhaps it is, but its conjunction with the lower mind and the need for an organic sensation of intellect was not discussed.
Put more precisely, although it does indeed involve sensation (for no such state may arise without that) the correct term for it would be organic intelligence of being, or, the organic intellect of being.
Having thrown both of these out there, I think we’ll stick with the organic intellect of Being. And in order to use this term in conjunction with its partner terms, let's understand that there is an organic intellect of Being, an organic sensation of Being, and an organic feeling of Being.
In separate pieces, I've explained that this idea of what is organic needs to be used in conjunction with the word fundamental. That is to say, it is of the body, of the organs; and at the same time it forms the foundation for this apparently (but not actually) ephemeral quality of consciousness called Being.
So there’s a foundation for Being, and it’s “built into” the organism.
It is substantial; it is material. It exists—let’s be clear on this— at the molecular level. It is so substantial and material that for each of the functions — intellect, sensation, and feeling — the vibration can be actively, inwardly sensed when it’s present. This means that one participates in a universe of “inflowing vibrations” which arise in the organism as a response to life itself — both inward and outward life — and feed its functions. The concentration of these vibrations is a concentration of responsibility, a concentration of the ability to respond.
This understanding of the phenomenon as food is quite important, because it’s the feeding of the organism that allows special parts of it — we would call, for example, the astral body a "special" part — to grow.
We’ll refer to these functions as the organic functions, as opposed to the automatic functions of mind, body, and emotion. These three different organic functions, organic intellect, organic sensation, and organic feeling, are each active entities. And today, it's the nature of the action and manifestation of the organic intellect of Being I’d like to discuss.
2. Ground Zero
The ordinary intellect, which Gurdjieff and his followers called the associative intellect, is a reflexive tool that’s built to automatically respond to what one is surrounded by externally. While I don't really like to out my personal inner experiences to the public, in this instance, I’ll make an exception, because I think it is illustrative of the nature of that creature and what we need to understand about it, if we want to ever come to it with the degree of skepticism, questioning, and intimate observation that's necessary in order to understand it better.
In 2001, when I underwent what one would term, in most works, an “enlightenment experience,” which is, measured in any sense, a permanent change in the state of Being, my mind shut down.
That is, my associative intellect shutdown; and while that was accompanied by a wide range of other important changes in function I won't describe here, the action of the intellect shutting down was both shocking and extraordinary. The experience lasted not for a few minutes—or an hour, or a day, but for months. During that period, I discovered that all of the "thinking" that I felt was necessary and even absolutely vital for ordinary life was in fact a complete waste of time.
None of it was necessary for daily life in any way, shape, or form.
When this part first ceased to function, it was terrifying. I found myself entirely within the moment, and everything was quite still. None of the associative thoughts I was accustomed finding within myself that drove my life from moment to moment were present; and I for some reason couldn't see how it was possible to live or get things done when there was no background noise dictating the course of action to be taken. I was alone; I was awake, and there was no background noise.
This couldn’t have come at a more critical time in my life. I had just been through what I call my own personal 9/11. I had been divorced, lost all my savings, my job, my house, and my children. I had moved back to New Jersey from Georgia and was about to start a new job at a new and very demanding company, where every possible skill I had learned over the last 20 years would be tested. Huge financial burdens were resting on my shoulders, and I was starting life all over again from ground zero. It was not the time for my mind to shut down. Not at all, not at all.
As it happened, I continued to encounter life and its ordinary tasks, and everything just took care of itself. I found myself in what one might call the eye of a hurricane, where external events took place in their usual confusing and demanding sequences, and every response that was necessary arrived automatically within my scope of being and field of my awareness without me making any effort whatsoever.
I was, for all intents and purposes, entirely separated from the automatic functions; and I could see that they were all simply part of a machine that did not have any mind in it as the term needs to be properly understood. Because I was starting this demanding new job for an extremely high performance company, it seemed doubly dangerous that this part had shut down, because I used it all the time in my business career and it seemed to me to be not only absolutely necessary for moment-to-moment functioning, but also what I had used to build my career on. I'm considered to be quite clever in both personal life and in business, you see; and whether or not that is true, that perception in others was built on the power of my associative part, which is strong and capable.
In this high performance job, I immediately found myself in situations where challenges were continually being issued to me. I was relatively new, and of course company management wanted to test me. A barrage of questions about my perceptions of the business, my experience with textiles, and what I ought “thought ought to be done” about this, that, and the other thing were coming at me all day long in a constant flow.
I was astonished to see that the mind of intelligence, this quiet mind that had no clear connection to associative thought, stood there doing very little or nothing in the midst of it all, while the associative mind continually spit out answers throughout the day that fit the situation appropriately. I didn't do anything. I wasn't even "thinking" of the things that my associative functions were saying. They just popped out, as though I had opened the box of cereal it was pouring Rice Crispies from it.
It turns out I am full of a lot of Rice Crispies.
These Rice Crispies were most satisfying to the people around me, but what astonished me over and over was the way they popped out without any participation on the part of my conscious mind. They were part of an automaton, a machine that knew what to do and how to do it. This was a graphic illustration of exactly what Gurdjieff said about the nature of our automatic or habitual being. It isn't even intelligent. It is actually a machine. It is no more intelligent than the CPU and the rote data in the computers that we use.
This may come as a terrifying piece of information to folk who have never had the experience, or who want to believe that their ordinary parts really have some higher meaning of one kind or another. They don't. What is true is that each one of them receives at least a trickle of information from the higher mind most of the time, so they are all capable of being informed — inwardly formed — with material from a higher source that is helpful in improving their quality. Nonetheless, by themselves, they are as meaningless as rabbit droppings.
Now, I'm sure you are feeling that I have stepped on your proverbial corns by telling you that our ordinary associations and manifestations are no better than rabbit droppings; but there is hope in this. Rabbit droppings make abundant fertilizers; and, the same way that rabbits chew grass in order to produce droppings, so we swallow and digest impressions before these associative actions are spit out of us.
3. Rabbit Droppings
This brings us to the next step in our analysis of the situation, which is, a critical mind. One of Gurdjieff's aphorisms is, for he who has not a critical mind, his staying here is useless.
Of course, it's generally understood that he meant this in regards to the Prieuré at Fontainbleu, the place he had established for the Institute for the Harmonious Development of Man. But in reality, if one takes this same aphorism from the point of view of the old adage, "be here now," one understands that it is no use to be here now if one is simply standing here in the middle of the rabbit droppings. That is not enough.
No, one must have a critical mind — that is, one must question the rabbit droppings.
I'm sure that most of us, when we decided to undertake a spiritual practice, expected it to be loftier than the examination of rabbit droppings. Nonetheless, as any scientist might tell us, studying the excrement of creatures can tell you an enormous amount about their lifestyle, behavior, diet, digestive abilities, micro-and macrobiotic health, and so on. So rabbit droppings are actually a rich source of investigation, if I have a critical mind.
And that critical mind needs first of all to understand that what I am looking at are rabbit droppings.
Until I realize this, a great deal of my analysis of my associations holds them in high regard and thinks that they are anything but rabbit droppings. Their spherical nature, their consistency, their elegance are all appealing features. I like them. And when Gurdjieff said, "like what it does not like,” what he was essentially saying is, “don't become enamored of your rabbit droppings. Don't let your associative thoughts become the focus of your spiritual life.
Even after many years spent studying these questions, one tends towards trying to approach inner work from the point of view of the outer and associative parts. This is impossible. It will never work; and yet the associative parts are absolutely convinced not only of their own value, but their efficacy and infallibility in the pursuit of spiritual matters.
In reality, they are worthless, and need to be ignored.
They can be there; but they can't be allowed to call the shots, because all they are is automatic functions that pop up in response to external stimuli. This was the essence of my experience back in 2001 when I started the new job; and although one does not live forever in such states, they merge and blend with the ordinary state to some extent, so that the organic intellect of being can function, on one level or another, with a healthier and better connection to parts. This is part of the action that the inflow helps to engender.
4. The organic intellect
So just what is the organic intellect of being?
Many masters discuss this question. One might say it is the least foreign of these three pieces of territory that fall under examination in spiritual work.
In point of fact, Zen Buddhism is highly interested in the development of the organic intellect of being; while one hears very little about sensation or feeling in Zen, the emphasis and focus on the organic intellect of being is strong. One hears this also in Meister Eckhart's discussions and sermons; and one hears it in constant and very verbal references to “the silence” which one hears in the Gurdjieff work. I've pointed out the irony of this activity, talking about the silence, before.
There is an intelligence that does not use words, just as there are other parts of being that don’t use words. Sensation doesn’t use words; it can't. And feeling doesn't use words; it can't either. We are left with the peculiar dilemma that only the intellect can use words, but because that is part of the way that it functions. So when we discuss an intellect that does not use words, we speak of an intellect that can conceptualize and imagine; but that conceptualization and imagination are not verbal. They become verbal after the intellect acts; or, they don't.
I say, they may not—they don’t—because they do not always need to.
The organic intellect of being has the capacity to grasp everything that is necessary about a situation or fact without any words at all participating. From the Greek language, we use a word for it which has come down to the present day, Eureka. Eureka means “I have found it;” traditionally, it’s said to have been the word that Archimedes used when he suddenly realized, sitting in the bathtub, that equal weights of gold and other less valuable metals would displace different amounts of water because of their relative densities.
Eureka is a moment in which something is comprehensively discovered; it instantly is understood from all its sides, in every aspect. Astute readers may remember that this is precisely how Gurdjieff described the word consciousness to Ouspensky in In Search of the Miraculous. The subject came up in the context of the word conscience, which is the eureka moment of feeling, but here we are examining it in terms of intellect:
" 'Conscience' is again a term that needs explanation.
"In ordinary life the concept 'conscience' is taken too simply. As if we had a conscience. Actually the concept 'conscience' in the sphere of the emotions is equivalent to the concept 'consciousness' in the sphere of the intellect. And as we have no consciousness we have no conscience. "Consciousness is a state in which a man knows all at once everything that he in general knows and in which he can see how little he does know and how many contradictions there are in what he knows. "Conscience is a state in which a man feels all at once everything that he in general
feels, or can feel.
—P.D. Ouspensky, In Search of the Miraculous, p. 154
Conscience is the same word as consciousness in the Latin tongues. We can see in this particular instance that the word was quite exactly used to mean not "conscience" that is, amorality as understood in the Western sense of the word, but feeling-consciousness, that is, a comprehensive and total awareness. That awareness is a eureka; and it consists of a conscious and comprehensive understanding and seeing of everything at one time, without any words. One ought to come back to this idea; because this idea of the Eureka moment, where everything is grasped comprehensively and in its entirety in a single instant, is a shared feature of the higher part of each function. Intellect, feeling, and sensation all have this capacity to grasp life in its entirety, and comprehensively, in a single instant when the higher part is functioning. They are on a different order of intelligence than our ordinary Being.
I'll fall back on some personal experience here in order to give readers some insight on the matter. I've often explained to my wife and others that one engages when one engages in a creative activity, whether it be writing, poetry, more music, there often comes a single incident in which one understands the entire scope of the question. The best example I can think of in my own life — and I have many, so I need to selective – was when I was speaking to a friend from the Gurdjieff foundation on Christmas Eve some seven years ago when I suddenly, in a single instant, had an insight that unlocked the secrets of the painting The Garden of Earthly Delights by Hieronymus Bosch.
In that single instant, I understood, in the broadest sense of the word, the entire scope of the painting, its subject, and everything that it was about. Without analyzing the individual details (I couldn't, the painting wasn't in front of me) I knew that this key unlocked the door and that it was possible, using it, to see every object in the room and understand its place and purpose. I have for the last seven years been working on that project, and it's true that there are some things which have taken me a bit of extra work to get out of the closet, which was very densely packed, as one might imagine. But the point is the understanding behind all of the writing I've done was comprehensive and instantaneous.
This was an example of the organic intellect of being in action. It can understand everything about a situation instantly, comprehensively. Now extend that intellectual capability to the feelings… and to your sensation… and think about what that means in relationship to what Gurdjieff called “three brained being.”
This capacity flows into the ordinary parts on a fairly regular basis in small amounts. It's called intuition, among other things or, instincts. Either word will suffice. The point is that when it flows into ordinary life, it vastly enhances understanding. It is meant to be a far more active part in life and balance equally with the ordinary intellect, but it rarely if ever does this. When it does so – that is, when it manifests strongly, — it usually does so in the presence of other significant imbalances which have tipped the scales towards this particular function. In those cases, the person is called a genius — and it turns out that again, in most cases, genius is accompanied by severe deficiencies in other areas. Autistic people are the best examples of this; some of them can be absolute geniuses in the organic intellect of Being when it comes, for example, to painting or music; but they are functional idiots in every other area, because they lack essential connections that ought to be there for the ordinary parts.
Those connectors act as necessary moderators which impart a certain practicality on this level; and while the lack of those connections for the ordinary parts has freed up a much larger pathway for the expression of the organic intellect of Being, this is a useless capacity when it takes place in the absence of a right relationship with the outer world and ordinary life. Here, one can see how important it is for the parts to develop harmoniously and in relationship with one another, and how absolutely important it is for these higher parts to have strong and healthy relationships with the lower ones, which are also absolutely necessary for functional being.
Well then. We've established that the organic intellect of being has an instantaneous capacity for grasping everything; and we have equally established that it needs a good connection to the lower parts in order for it to function well.
Yet perhaps it’s impossible, under ordinary circumstances— in the middle of ordinary life —to ask us to truly escape the constant and demanding chatter of the ordinary mind, the associative mind. Hence all of the emphasis on meditative practices to quiet the mind so that one can conduct an observance of the inflow without being identified with it. These practices can be quite helpful, because if a practitioner gets far enough into them, they experience what is called "opening" in the Gurdjieff work; there is an active separation between the higher and lower mind, such that the higher mind can begin to flow into Being more directly. This function is identical in action to the function of a voluntary sensation; and of course one hears that word talked about repeatedly in Jeanne Salzmann's "The Reality of Being."
Yet one does not hear anyone speak of the arrival of a voluntary intelligence, which absolutely must be spoken about now, if we want to understand this question properly.
5. A voluntary intelligence
A voluntary intelligence is this organic intelligent intellect of being which arrives on its own, without being demanded, divorced, or manipulated.
It makes its appearance within being and supports the effort and the work without any prompting from the associative mind. There is a stillness that is preserved within its Being, carried into ordinary life, from which this capacity flows; and it manifests according to the magnetism of Being, the inner gravity of sensation.
It's a peculiar property of this organic intellect of being that it can’t manifest without its partner, the organic sense of Being. The two have to be there in conjunction in order to support one another's work; otherwise, they remain weak. And although you may think, well, it's a chicken/egg thing, it isn't in fact a chicken/egg situation at all. In our inner hierarchy, which has some peculiar inversions in it (maybe I will try to explain them later) the organic sensation of Being must arrive first in order to anchor the organism and its functions. Without this pendulum that swings back and forth to regulate activity and lend weight, an intelligence and Being that arises from sensation, the intellect of Being can't express itself; and the feeling of Being most certainly can’t express itself until the other two are aligned and in conjunction. Even though in order of rates of vibration the progression is intellect — sensation — feeling, the regulatory mechanism — the reconciling factor — in the relationship is always sensation. In this sense, without holy reconciling, neither holy affirming nor holy denying find the ground of Being for their manifestation.
My teacher Henry Brown used to call this phenomenon, a voluntary intelligence, the effortless effort. It can’t be invoked. The stillness arises. It is a companion to the active movement of the ordinary mind, and actually needs it as a support: yet it is the higher part of mind and of intelligence. It needs to volunteer itself, by itself, as this stillness that has its own capacity for receiving. And that stillness does not have any of the analytical components we are using to describe or discuss it here; in fact, all of the teachings about the mind: free attention, false personality, identification, my “parts”, all of this material falls away. The ideas here are like dead pieces of skin that are sloughed off in order for what is living and real to become manifest. Even using the word silence or quiet is unhelpful; once again, already, it’s analytical. I need to just be within the stillness, and appreciate the motion all around me, including my own motion, which surrounds the stillness. The stillness is the seed of the soul which receives life and all its Grace.
While all of this is essential and important to practice, it is also important to understand quite precisely exactly how it relates to the ordinary parts; and this is important in general terms, because in order to understand the disabilities our ordinary form of consciousness imposes upon us, it helps to know the way the harmonic structure functions, in the same way that it is good to understand music from a theoretical point of view. To extend the analogy, there is an entire theoretical structure of music which can become very helpful in the elaboration of it; yet in the end, in the practice, one must play music, which is very different than thinking of it. One must, in general terms, both think about it and play it; yet one shouldn’t think about it while playing, and one shouldn’t play it while thinking about it. The two exist side-by-side, but are separated; the playing is the higher activity, because it is the perfect and absolute expression of truth relative to what music is; within playing, there the stillness lies. Yet all around that, the theoretical structure forms the shell for the seed which can grow: so there you are.
6. The structural nature of the minds
Here we enter a realm of theory which may not be interesting at all to some readers; so if you aren’t, you had better skip it.
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.