Gnostic Psychology – Part 3 (Self-Observation and the Three Brains)
The Work upon Oneself: Knowing Our Mechanics
As we have said, the purpose of Gnosis and Gnostic Psychology is to transform ourselves. To do this, we must first recognize what we are, then we can begin to change. If we want to work on a machine (such as a car), but we do not look at it or understand what we are working with, then the changes we want to make could either be impossible (because the structure we want to change does not exist in the way we expect it to) or we will make changes that will have undesirable effects (because the change affects the vehicle in a different way then what we wished for). Therefore we cannot assume anything about ourselves.
Instead, we must begin by observing ourselves (as we have already said) without any kind of prejudices – simply observing and gathering information. In this way we can discover what we truly are and how we really work.
Self-observation requires that we look inside (our interior world) to see what we are thinking, feeling, or sensing, etc., in a given moment. Because of our current mentality, this can be difficult at first for 2 reasons:
1. we are taught that we ARE our thoughts, feelings, sensations, etc. (vs. I have a thought, etc.)
2. and because we believe those thoughts, feelings and sensations occur only because of outside stimuli. (ie, “they made me feel bad…”)
We have a huge problem with our present culture, we think that someone else make us “feel” in some way and (on top of that):
• if it is a negative feeling we try to avoid it
• and if it is a positive feeling we don’t want it to go away
So we spend our lives chasing “positive feelings” or avoiding “negative feelings” which we think come from the outside.
One of the foundational principles of Gnostic Psychology is that our thoughts feelings and sensations come from ourselves. Outside stimuli (External Events) only activate or shed light upon thoughts, feelings and sensations we already have within. When someone else supposedly “makes me feel bad” what has actually happened is that they have brought attention to something that I am uncomfortable with.
As an example, if someone says I am “weak” and that “makes me feel bad”, then something in me:
1. considers that I could in fact be “weak”
2. and considers my “weakness” in the particular area referenced to be a bad thing
If I am weak, then why does it offend me? If its true, then its true. Maybe I can figure out what I am doing that is weak and stop it… or maybe its not something I want to spend energy getting ‘strong’ about. If its not true, then why does it offend me? These are the questions we need to ask ourselves in order to discover how we really work.
We have many mistaken concepts about the world around us and about ourselves. We need to question everything, including what we are saying here, so that we can discover the truth for ourselves.
Fundamental Concepts about the Human Machine
Right now (according to Gnostic Psychology), we are mixture of a 3 main things:
• Essence, and
These 3 things work directly with the “Organic Machine”, which is an interesting concept that we should understand:
1. The human being’s physical organism is a Machine or Factory that is able to transform ‘matter’ or ‘energy’ from one type into another (examples: digestion, breathing, etc).
2. The human being has 3 “brains” which are the synthesis of 7 “centers”
• 1st Brain: Intellectual, the Superior and Inferior Intellect (2 centers)
• 2nd Brain: Emotional, the Superior and Inferior Emotions (2 centers)
• 3rd Brain: Action or Motor-Instinctive-Sexual (3 centers)
3. The human being is born pre-disposed to excelling in one of these Brains (we are all born either as an Action, Emotional or Intellectual type of person).
4. The Superior Emotional and Superior Intellectual centers do not function properly (either they are not fully developed or they do not receive the proper nourishment)
There are many other concepts which build upon these, but for now let’s start with the above.
The Human Machine and Self-Observation
Beginning with the concept that the human being processes things through the Three Brains, we can start to understand how to observe ourselves. Self-Observation requires that we separate ourselves from what we think, feel, sense, etc. We become the observer and our thoughts, feelings, sensations, etc., are the observed. This is very similar to the Buddhist concept of Mindfulness: being aware of our psychological state.
As we begin to observe ourselves, we will start to see that we have:
• a thought in the Intellectual Center,
• or a feeling in the Emotional Center,
• or a movement or sensation in the Motor-Instinctive-Sexual Center, etc.
At first we simply see that we have an opinion, a belief, a feeling, sensation, etc. Later we can see how that opinion, belief, feeling, or sensation leads us into certain activities and behaviors. When we understand this connection, then it becomes much easier to control ourselves.
When we do not observe ourselves, when we forget about ourselves, we easily become fascinated by the world around us (external events) and by our psychological states (internal states). And as along as we do this, then we are doomed to be someone who moves through life like driftwood on the ocean…
Self-Study and the Human Machine
“With right methods and the right efforts the human being can acquire control of the consciousness, and can become conscious of themselves, with all that it implies. Only after this point has been understood does serious study of psychology become possible.
This study must begin with the investigation of obstacles to awakening consciousness in ourselves, because consciousness can only begin to grow when at least some of these obstacles are removed.
The greatest of these obstacles is our ignorance of ourselves, and our wrong conviction that we know ourselves at least to a certain extent and can be sure of ourselves, when in reality we do not know ourselves at all and cannot be sure of ourselves even in the smallest things.
We must understand now that psychology really means self-study. One cannot study psychology as one can study astronomy; that is, it cannot be studied apart from oneself. And at the same time one must study oneself as one studies any new and complicated machine.
One must know: the parts of this machine, its chief functions, the conditions of right work, the causes of wrong work, and many other things which are difficult to describe without using a special language, which is also necessary to know in order to be able to study the machine.”
The Three Brains and the Five Centers
“The three-brained human being is a precious ‘Machine’ with five marvelous Psycho-physiological Centers. The order of these centers is as follows:
1. Intellectual (or thinking)
2. Emotional (or feeling)
3. Motor (or movement; all outer work of the organism)
4. Instinctual (all inner work of the organism)
5. Sexual (the function of the two principles, male and female, in all their manifestations)
Each of these centers performs a specific function which must first be understood in all their potential manifestations, and later they must be observed in oneself. Besides these five there are two more functions which appear only in higher states of consciousness: one, superior emotional function (which appears in the state of self-consciousness), and the other, superior intellectual function (which appears in the state of objective consciousness).
As we are not in these states of consciousness we cannot study these functions or experiment with them, and until then, we can only learn about them indirectly from those who have attained or experienced them. Self-study must begin with the study of the five functions in order to understand them.
Such self-observation, that is, observation on the right basis, with a preliminary understanding of the states of consciousness and of different functions, constitutes the basis of self-study; and this is the beginning of psychology.”
-paraphrase from Lecture 1, Section 4 of The Psychology of Man’s Possible Evolution
and Ch. 10 of The Solar Bodies (aka The Doomed Aryan Race and The Narrow Way)
The Intellectual and Emotional Centers
Let’s look at the first two centers. First, the intellectual or thinking function:
“All mental processes are included here:
• realization of an impression,
• formation of representations and of concepts,
• affirmation & negation,
• formation of words,
• faculty of speech,
• imagination, and so on.
The second function is feeling or emotions:
• astonishment, and so on.
Even if you are sure that it is clear to you how, and in what way, emotions differ from thoughts, we should advise you to verify all your views in regard to this. We mix thought and feelings in our ordinary thinking and speaking; but for the beginning of self-study it is necessary to know clearly which is which.
-paraphrase from Lecture 1, Section 5 of The Psychology of Man’s Possible Evolution
The Motor and Instinctive Centers
“The moving function includes in itself all external movements, such as
• and memories of them.
Besides these normal moving functions, there are also some strange moving functions which represent useless work of the human machine not intended by nature, but which occupy a very large place in people’s lives and use a great quantity of their energy. These are:
• formation of dreams,
• mechanical imagination or fantasy,
• talking with oneself,
• all talking for talking’s sake,
• and generally, all uncontrolled and uncontrollable manifestations.”
To the moving function also belongs those movements which in ordinary language are called ‘instinctive’, such as catching a falling object without thinking. In Gnostic Psychology, these are referred to as ‘external reflexes’ to avoid confusion.
“The words ‘instinct’, ‘instinctive’, are generally used incorrectly in our present time. In particular, external functions are generally ascribed to instinct which are in reality moving functions, and sometimes emotional.
The difference between the instinctive and the moving function is very clear and can be easily understood if one simply remembers that all instinctive functions without exception are inherent and that there is no necessity to learn them in order to use them; whereas on the other hand, none of the moving functions are inherent and one has to learn them as a child learns to walk, or as one learns to write or to draw.
The instinctive function in the human being includes in itself four different classes of functions:
FIRST: All the inner work of the Organism, all physiology, so to speak; digestion and assimilation of food, breathing, circulation of the blood, all the work of inner Organs, the building of new cells, the elimination of worked-out materials, the work of glands of inner secretion, and so on.
SECOND: The so-called five senses: sight, hearing, smell, taste, touch; and all other senses such as the sense of weight, of temperature, of dryness or of moisture, and so on; that is, all indifferent sensations which by themselves are neither pleasant nor unpleasant.
THIRD: All physical sensations which are either pleasant or unpleasant. All kinds of pain or unpleasant sensation such as unpleasant taste or unpleasant smell, and all kinds of physical pleasure, such as pleasant taste, pleasant smell, and so on.
FOURTH: All inner reflexes (even the most complicated) such as laughter, sneezing and yawning; all kinds of physical memory such as memory of taste, memory of smell, memory of pain, which are in reality inner reflexes.”
-paraphrase from Lecture 1, Section 5 of The Psychology of Man’s Possible Evolution
The Sexual Center
“Self-study must begin with the study of the four functions, thinking, feeling, movement and instinct.
The fifth function, Sex, can only be studied much later; that is, when these first four functions are already sufficiently understood. Contrary to some modern theories, the sex function is really posterior; that is, it appears later in life, when the first four functions are already fully manifested, and is conditioned by them.
Therefore, the study of the sex function can be useful only when the first four functions are fully known in all their manifestations. At the same time it must be understood that any serious irregularity or abnormality in the sex function makes self-development and even self-study impossible.”
“The sex center is stronger and quicker than all other centers and can be regarded as an independent center. Sex plays a tremendous role in maintaining the mechanicalness of life. Everything that people do is connected with ‘sex’: politics, religion, art, the theater, music, is all ‘sex’. Do you think people go to the theater or to church to pray or to see some new play? That is only for the sake of appearances. The principal thing, in the theater as well as in church, is that there will be a lot of women or a lot of men. This is the center of gravity of all gatherings.
What do you think brings people to cafés, to restaurants, to various festivals? One thing only: Sex. Sex is the principal motive force of all mechanicalness. All dreaming, all day-dreaming, depends upon it. Mechanicalness is especially dangerous when people try to explain it by something else and not by what it really is.
When sex is clearly conscious of itself and does not cover itself up by anything else then it is not mechanical. On the contrary sex which exists by itself and is not dependent on anything else it is already a great achievement. But the evil lies in the constant self-deception!
What is this self-deception? It is when we do not realize how much of a slave we are of our sexual center and we justify this slavery to ourselves. But one can change one’s own position in relation to it and one can escape from this power of sex over people. Within the sexual center are many different possibilities. It includes the chief form of slavery and it is also the chief possibility of liberation.”
Self-Study and the Functioning of the Centers
“It is very important to remember that in observing different functions of the centers it is useful to observe at the same time their relation to different states of consciousness.
Let us take the first three states of consciousness:
2. waking state,
3. and possible glimpses of self-consciousness or self-remembering
and the five functions:
5. and sexual.
All five functions can manifest themselves in sleep, but their manifestations are unreliable; they cannot be used in any way, they just go by themselves.
In the vigil or wrongly called “waking state of consciousness” or relative consciousness, they can be used, to a certain extent, for our orientation. Their results can be compared, verified, straightened out; and although they may create many illusions, still in our ordinary state we have nothing else and must make use of them the best we can.
If we knew the quantity of wrong observations, wrong theories, wrong deductions and conclusions made in this state (the 2nd state of consciousness), then we would cease to believe ourselves altogether. But human beings do not realize how deceptive their observations and their theories can be, and they continue to believe in them. It is this that keeps human beings from observing the rare moments when their functions manifest themselves in connection with glimpses of the third state of consciousness; that is, the state of self-consciousness or self-remembering.
All this means that each of the five functions can manifest themselves in each of the three states of consciousness. But the results are quite different. When we learn to observe these results and their difference, we will understand the right relation between functions and states of consciousness. But before even considering the difference in function in relation to states of consciousness, it is necessary to understand that functions can exist without consciousness, and consciousness can exist without functions.”
-paraphrase from Lecture 1, Section 6 of The Psychology of Man’s Possible Evolution
Self-Study and the Three Brains
“The human machine has three Brains:
3. Motor (or Action)
The First Brain is enclosed in the cranium and is the thinking center. The Second Brain is constituted by the sympathetic nervous plexus and, in general, by all specific nervous centers of the human organism. It is the Emotional Center. The Third Brain corresponds to the spine with its spinal cord and all its nervous branches. It is the center of movement, commonly called the motor center.
In all the ancient Mystery Schools the pupils received direct integral information for their three brains through an intelligent combination of precepts, dances, music, etc. The theatres of ancient times used to be part of the Mystery Schools. Dramas, comedies and tragedies, combined with special movements, music, oral teaching, etc., served to inform each individual’s three brains. Therefore, students did not abuse the thinking brain and knew how to use all three brains in an intelligent and balanced way.
It is problematic to inform only one brain. The first brain is not the only cognitive one. The three brains have three totally different sorts of independent associations. These three sorts of associations evoke different types of impulses from the being. In fact, this generates three different personalities that have nothing in common with each other neither in their nature or in their manifestations.
Gnostic Psychology teaches that there are three distinct psychological aspects in each person. With one part of the psychic essence we wish for one thing, with another part we desire something quite different, and thanks to the third part we do a completely opposite thing. In a moment of supreme sorrow, perhaps due to the loss of a loved on or any other intimate catastrophe [such as a car accident]: the emotional personality is in desperation, while the intellectual personality wants to know the reason why such a tragedy is taking place, and the movement personality just wants to escape the scene.
These three different and often contradictory personalities must be intelligently cultivated and instructed by means of special methods and systems. Gnostic Psychology affirms that one can awaken consciousness and make it continuous and controllable, through a special kind of effort. Through a great effort we may become conscious of ourselves for a few minutes. Normally people are not conscious of themselves. The illusion of being conscious (in a continuous form) comes from memory and from all the processes of thought.
To remember unconscious actions is not the same as being Conscious. A person who practices a retrospective exercise in order to remember their whole life, may recall: how many times they got married, how many children they engendered, who their parents were, who their teachers were, etc. But this does not mean they have awakened their Consciousness, this is simply remembering unconscious acts, and that’s all.”
The Technique to Awaken the Consciousness
“The technique to awaken the Consciousness is based in the remembrance of oneself. Every human being is fascinated by different things. When a specific representation (or impression) fascinates us, we forget about ourselves and then we dream [and thus we ‘sleep’ Psychologically].
The power of fascination is this: one forgets about oneself and then one dreams and, dreaming, one does absurd things. Then, afterwards, problems arise. It is necessary for the Gnostic student not to let themselves become fascinated by anything.
In the presence of any kind of interesting representation one must remember oneself and ask oneself the following questions:
• Where am I?
• What am I doing here?
• Could I be out of my physical body?
Thus one will awaken in the internal worlds…”
-paraphrase from Ch. 16 of Esoteric Course of Kabalah
Gnostic Psychology – Part 3 SUPPLEMENTAL INFORMATION
Consciously Insulating Ourselves with the Work
“It is very often difficult to hear the Work speaking to us. As a rule we are immersed in life and self-interests of various kinds and cannot hear the Work. How can one come “to the supersensual state and hear God speak”? This means to a state that is above the life of the senses.
Have you ever really thought what is the life of the senses? It is all your daily worries, all your cares, your daily contacts, all you see and hear, etc. through the senses. You see there is not enough food, or your pots and pans are wearing out, or you miss the bus, and so on. All this is life of the senses. You see war! You see money! You see the table is broken; you see a letter with bad news; you see disease; you see an earthquake; you see your own face —and so on. All this is sensual— that is, life transmitted by the senses.
How many of us are upset because of the electric light failing or because of another man, or a woman, or because we cannot buy what we want and so on. All this is sensual: fit is the sensual life. It is life as you experience it via your five senses.
You might ask: “Is there any other kind of life apart from my business, my job, my daily cares, my house, family, my sick child, my this, my that, and so on?” In other words, you are asking: “Is there any other life than the sensual life?” Gnostic Esotericism speaks of another life. The Work speaks of it.
…glued to that sensory reality that masters us at every moment and makes us its slaves, we cannot easily see beyond the particular life-event that is exerting its influence on us at the moment, as, for instance, we have lost our ticket or our bag or someone has been rude to us. When we are in a particular outer event then everything seems to be that event, does it not? Then it passes and we wonder what happened.
It is sometimes said that life is a series of events, or, if you prefer, that passing time, hour by hour, day by day, is composed of a definite structure of events, that crowd in all the time on different scales —that is, as personal events, family events, local events, national events, world-events, all on different scales. These are due to the 48 laws we are under.
Now you can never be without some event that is trying to take force from you. Bad news is an event, for instance. Certainly war is an event. But they are not on the same scale, of course. There is a common phrase that “life is one thing after another.” It is necessarily so since we are under definite laws. We are not free. This takes us probably all our life to grasp —and then we cannot grasp it.”
-paraphrase from “Birdlip, July 26, 1943 – SELF-REMEMBERING” in Psychological Commentaries … Vol. 1
Our Level of Being, Self-Remembering and the Work
“If we notice the kind of being we have, then we will get to know that it weaves a thread continuing the same series of events. Our level of being attracts our life —that is, the events belonging to it. You may feel how bad it is that these things always happen to you. Yes, but what has the Work to say?
Have you ever made the connection? Have you ever observed your life and its events from the angle of what the Work teaches about being? There are times when self-observation is no good. Then we can say: “I wish to remember myself.” And we will find that the Work will help you. The Work emphasizes the importance of Self-Remembering from the start.
Very often we forget to remember ourselves. We wonder what to do, but forget to remember ourselves. Perhaps we think of it but we do not try to do it. We are always thinking of, but not doing, the Work. When we make no attempt to self-remember, our inner continuity with the Work is broken. The Work moves away from us and we pass into life. When this happens it is necessary to self-remember.
This opens us again to the influences of the Work. This is quite a definite experience, but we usually forget to self-remember and try instead to do something ourselves. To remember oneself is a surrender of oneself. One realizes one’s helplessness. It is impossible to self-remember if one does not realize and understand that better influences can reach us.
In one book written some eight centuries ago, by someone belonging to the Sufi schools, the writer compares Self-Remembering with coming to the surface of the sea and drawing in air. “This air,” he says, “is miraculous, and will last a whole day, even when one is at the bottom of the ocean.”
When one is very much identified with life it is difficult to self-remember. It is also difficult when one has a wrong inner attitude to the Work. Again, it is difficult to understand anything about Self-Remembering when one is identified with oneself. When you make a practice of Self-Remembering every day, you begin to be aware of a continuity running through your life.
On the other hand, you become aware when this continuity is lost. When you feel this continuity and the loss of it, you have a point in the Work in the Emotional Center. This is like “inner taste” or inner flavor, and is the starting of real consciousness of the Work.”
-paraphrase from “Birdlip, July 26, 1943 – SELF-REMEMBERING” in Psychological Commentaries … Vol. 1