Self-Observation and the Centers

The purpose of us studying the Centers of the Human Machine is so that we can understand how our machine typically works. This is done through observing oneself and determining which center or centers are in use during a given moment of life and how this related to our psychological patterns or habits.

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The Division of Functions

“Now that we understand the difference between the intellectual, the emotional, and the moving functions, as we observes ourselves we must immediately refer our impressions to this or that category. And at first we must take mental note of only those observations of which we are certain (that is: those that we have doubt about whatsoever, those where we see at once to what category they belong).

We must reject all vague or doubtful cases and remember only those which are unquestionable. If the work is carried on properly, the number of unquestionable observations will rapidly increase. And that which seemed doubtful before will be clearly seen to belong to the first, the second, the third center.

Each center has its own memory, its own associations, its own processing. Self-observation will very quickly show us that our mental life is much richer than we think, or in any case that it contains more possibilities than we think.”

– Paraphrase from Chapter 6 of In Search of the Miraculous

The reason we do this is to gather reliable ‘data’ about ourselves and to work on simply observing ourselves.

Proper Self-Observation

“Without properly applied self-observation a person will never understand the connection between the various functions of their machine, and they will never understand how and why on each separate occasion everything in them ‘happens’.

To learn the methods of self-observation and of right self-study requires a certain understanding of the functions and the characteristics of the human machine.

Thus in observing the functions of the human machine it is necessary to understand the correct divisions of the functions observed and to be able to define them exactly and at once; and the definition must not be a verbal but an inner definition: by taste or flavor, by sensation, in the same way as we define all inner experiences.

There are two important methods of self-study which should be distinguished:

    1. registering or recording – simply ‘recording’ in one’s mind what is observed at the moment
    2. and analysis, or attempts at analysis – attempts to find the answers to the questions: upon what does a certain thing depend, and why does it happen.

Self-observation, especially in the beginning, must not become analysis or attempts at analysis. Analysis will only become possible much later when a person knows all the functions of their machine and all the laws which govern it. In trying to analyze some phenomenon that we come across within ourselves, we generally ask: ‘What is this? Why does it happen in this way and not in some other way?’.

As we begin to seek an answer to these questions, we forget all about observations and we completely lose the thread of self-observation (we forget about it entirely). And observation stops. It is clear from this that only one thing can go on; either observation or attempts at analysis.”

– Paraphrase from Chapter 6 of In Search of the Miraculous

In Gnostic Psychology, we often use Meditation to analyze what we have recorded so that we can Comprehend and Eliminate it. These subjects are discussed later on in this course.

Recording according to the Division of Functions

“Before it is possible to analyze even the most elementary phenomena, a person must accumulate a sufficient quantity of material by means of ‘recording’. Recording is the result of a direct observation of what is taking place at a given moment, and is the most important material in the work of self-study.

When a certain number of ‘records’ have been accumulated and when, at the same time, laws to a certain extent have been studied and understood, then analysis becomes possible. From the very beginning, observation, or ‘recording’, must be based upon the understanding of the fundamental principles of the activity of the human machine.

Self-observation cannot be properly applied without knowing these principles, without constantly bearing them in mind. Observation must begin with the division of functions. All the activity of the human machine is divided into five sharply defined groups, each of which is controlled by its own special ‘brain’ or ‘center’.

In observing themselves a person must differentiate between the five basic functions of their machine: the thinking, the emotional, the moving, the instinctive and the sexual. Every phenomenon that a person observes in themselves is related to one or the other of these functions. Therefore, before beginning to observe, a person must understand
• how the functions differ;
• what intellectual activity means,
• what emotional activity means,
• what moving activity means,
• what instinctive activity means,
• and what sexual activity means.

Observation must begin from the zero. All previous experience, the results of all previous self-observation, must be laid aside. They may contain much valuable material, but all this material is based upon wrong divisions of the functions observed. It cannot therefore be utilized, at least not at the beginning of the work of self-study. A human being must begin observing themselves as though they did not know themselves at all, as though they have never observed themselves.”

– Paraphrase from Chapter 6 of In Search of the Miraculous

Self-Observation and the Functioning of the Centers

“When the human being begins to observe himself, he must try to determine at once to what group (to which center or centers) belong the phenomena which is being observing at the moment. Some people find it difficult to understand the difference between thought and feeling, others have difficulty in understanding the difference between feeling and sensation, between a thought and a moving impulse.

Speaking on very broad lines, one may say that the thinking function always works by means of comparison. Intellectual conclusions are always the result of the comparison of two or more impressions. Sensation and emotion do not reason, they do not compare, they simply define a given impression by its aspect, by its being pleasant or unpleasant in one sense or another, by its color, taste, or smell, etc.

Moreover, sensations can be indifferent: neither warm nor cold, neither pleasant nor unpleasant: ‘white paper’, ‘red pencil’. In the sensation of white or red there is nothing either pleasant or unpleasant. At least there does not need to be anything pleasant or unpleasant connected with this or that color. These sensations, the so-called ‘five senses’, and others, like the feeling of warmth, cold, and so on, are instinctive.

Feeling functions or emotions are always pleasant or unpleasant, but indifferent emotions do not exist.”

– Paraphrase from Chapter 6 of In Search of the Miraculous

The Inner Perception of the Functions

“The difficulty of distinguishing between the functions is increased by the fact that people differ very much in the way they feel or sense their functions. This is what we do not generally understand. We assume people to be much more alike than they really are. In reality, however, there exist between them great differences in the forms and methods of their perception. Some perceive chiefly through their mind, others through their feeling, and others through sensation.

It is very difficult, almost impossible, for people of different categories and of different modes of perception to understand one another, because they call one and the same thing by different names, and they call different things by the same name. Besides this, various other combinations are possible. One human being perceives by thoughts and sensations, another by thoughts and feelings, and so on. One or another mode of perception is immediately connected with one or another kind of reaction to external events.

The result of this difference in perception and reaction to external events is expressed in the first place by the fact that:

    1. people do not understand one another
    2. and in the second by the fact that they do not understand themselves.

Very often a person calls their thoughts or their reasoning their feelings, they call their feelings their thoughts, and their sensations their feelings (which is the most common). If two people perceive the same thing differently, let us say that one perceives it through feeling and another through sensation they may argue all their lives and never understand in what consists the difference of their attitude to a given object. Actually, one sees one aspect of it, and the other a different aspect of it.

In order to find a way of discriminating we must understand that every normal psychic function is a means or an instrument of knowledge. With the help of the mind we see one aspect of things and events, with the help of emotions another aspect, with the help of sensations a third aspect. The most complete knowledge of a given subject possible for us can only be obtained if we examine it simultaneously with our mind, feelings, and sensations. Every person who is striving after right knowledge must aim at the possibility of attaining such perception.

In ordinary conditions a person sees the world through a crooked, uneven window. And even if they realize this, they have a very difficult time changing it. This or that mode of perception depends upon the work of their organism as a whole. All functions are interconnected and counterbalance one another, all functions strive to keep one another in the state in which they are. Therefore when a person begins to study themselves they must understand that if they discovers in themselves something that they dislike they may not be able to change it right away. To study is one thing, and to change is another. But study is the first step towards the possibility of change in the future.”

– Paraphrase from Chapter 6 of In Search of the Miraculous

The Right and Wrong Working of the Centers

“As we watch the work of the centers we will observe, side by side with their right working, their wrong working, that is, the working of one center for another:
• the attempts of the thinking center to feel or to pretend that it feels,
• the attempts of the emotional center to think,
• the attempts of the moving center to think and feel, etc.

The wrong working of a center often occurs when it does not use its own energy. Each center has its own particular type of energy that it normally works with, but when it runs out of energy, the machine must either switch to another center or steal energy from another center. For us to switch to another center (a center which is not exhausted) would be ideal, but sometimes we cannot and other times we don’t want to, either way, energy is stolen from another center to continue the work in the present center.

Typically, when the Machine steals energy, it does so from the sexual center. As a result, all the centers rob the sexual center of its energy and produce quite wrong work full of useless excitement with this energy and, in return, give the sexual center useless energy with which it is unable to work.

One center working for another is useful in certain cases, since it preserves the continuity of mental activity. But if this becomes habitual then it also becomes harmful, since it begins to interfere with right working by enabling each center to avoid its own direct duties and to do whatever it likes best at the moment instead of what it ought to be doing. In a normal healthy person each center does its own work, that is, the work for which it was specially destined and which it can best perform.

There are situations in life which the thinking center alone can deal with and can find a way out of. If at this moment the emotional center begins to work instead, it will make a mess of everything and the result of its interference will be very unbalanced. In an unbalanced kind of person the substitution of one center for another goes on almost continually and this is precisely what ‘being unbalanced’ or ‘neurotic’ means.

In an unbalanced person, each center strives to pass its work on to another, and, at the same time, it strives to do the work of another center for which it is not suited. The emotional center working for the thinking center brings unnecessary nervousness, feverishness, and hurry into situations where, on the contrary, calm judgment and deliberation are essential. The thinking center working for the emotional center brings deliberation into situations which require quick decisions and makes a person incapable of distinguishing the peculiarities and the fine points of the position. Thought is too slow. It works out a certain plan of action and continues to follow it even though the circumstances have changed and quite a different course of action is necessary.

Besides, in some cases the interference of the thinking center gives rise to entirely wrong reactions, because the thinking center is simply incapable of understanding the shades and distinctions of many events. Events that are quite different for the moving center and for the emotional center appear to be alike to the thinking center. Its decisions are much too general and do not correspond to the decisions which the emotional center would have made.

This becomes perfectly clear if we imagine the interference of thought, that is, of the theoretical mind, in the domain of feeling, or of movement, or of sensation; in all three cases the interference of the mind leads to wholly undesirable results. The mind cannot understand shades of feeling. We shall see this clearly if we imagine one person reasoning about the emotions of another. He is not feeling anything himself so the feelings of another do not exist for him. But for the other person, those emotions have a very definite existence. A full man does not understand a hungry one. And the decisions of the mind can never satisfy a person who is using their emotional or instinctual center.

In exactly the same way the mind cannot appreciate sensations. For the intellect, sensations are dead. Nor is the mind capable of controlling movement. Instances of this kind are the easiest to find. Whatever work a person may be doing, it is enough for them to try to do each action deliberately, with their mind, following every movement, and they will see that the quality of their work will change immediately.

If they are typing, their fingers, controlled by their moving center, find the necessary letters themselves, but if they try to ask themselves before every letter: ‘Where is “k”?’ ‘Where is the comma?’ ‘How is this word spelled?’, they suddenly begin to make mistakes or write very slowly.

If one drives a car with the help of one’s mind, one can go only in the lowest gear. The mind cannot keep pace with all the movements necessary for developing a greater speed. To drive at full speed, especially in the streets of a large town, while steering with the help of one’s mind is very difficult for an ordinary person.

The motor center working for thinking center produces, mechanical reading or mechanical listening, like when a person reads or listens to nothing but the words, but is utterly unconscious of what they are reading or hearing. This generally happens when attention of the thinking center is occupied with something else and when the moving center is trying to replace the absent attention of the thinking center; but this very easily becomes a habit, because the thinking center is generally distracted not by useful work (by thought or by contemplation), but simply by daydreaming or by fantasy (imagination used by the “I”).”

– Paraphrase from Chapter 6 and 3 of In Search of the Miraculous

Fantasy or Daydreaming and the Wrong Working of the Centers

Fantasy or Daydreaming which is one of the principal sources of the wrong work of centers. Each center has its own form of fantasy and daydreaming, but as a rule both the motor-instinctive-sexual and the emotional Brains make use of the thinking Brain which very readily places itself at their disposal for this purpose, because daydreaming corresponds to the thinking center’s own inclinations.

Daydreaming is absolutely the opposite of ‘useful’ mental activity. ‘Useful’ in this case means activity directed towards a definite aim and undertaken for the sake of obtaining a definite result. Daydreaming does not pursue any beneficial aim or result, it is a waste of energy.

The motive for daydreaming almost always lies in the emotional or in the moving center. But the actual process is carried out by the thinking center. The inclination to daydream is:

    1. partly due to the laziness of the thinking Brain, that is, its attempts to avoid the efforts connected with work directed towards a definite aim and going in a definite direction,
    2. and partly due to the tendency of the emotional and the motor-instinctive-sexual Brains to repeat to themselves (to keep alive or to recreate), both pleasant and unpleasant experiences, that have been previously lived through or ‘imagined’.

Daydreaming of disagreeable things is very characteristic of the unbalanced state of the human machine. After all, one can understand daydreaming of a pleasant kind and even find a justification for it. But daydreaming of an unpleasant character is certainly useless. And yet many people spend nine tenths of their lives in just such painful daydreams about misfortunes which may overtake them or their family, about illnesses they may contract or sufferings they will have to endure, etc.

Fantasy and daydreaming are definite examples of the wrong work of the thinking center.”

– Paraphrase from Chapter 6 of In Search of the Miraculous

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