Consciousness Dynamics, Going On to Higher Centers

Dr. Charles Tart


Dr. Charles T. Tart, Mindfulness, Institute of Transpersonal Psychology,

Lecture 5, Part 4 of 18 parts. To start class from beginning, click here.

CTT: Now one of the reasons that I’m reviewing this, is that it takes us to the fourth diagram in the lower right-hand corner of the handout, and that’s another way of looking at our topics, particularly from a mostly Gurdjieffian viewpoint, but I have the nerve to call it a “Tartian” viewpoint too, so this is what I think about things, it’s not straight Gurdjieff.

We ordinarily have input from the world, just like in these other diagrams. We have this, all this input processing that shapes these various kinds of perception, and Gurdjieff divides it into these three primary centers or “brains” – intellectual, emotional, and bodily/instinctual. I just labeled them as the dominant center and two secondary centers, and which center is dominant depends on the particular person. For most ITP people, I’d say it would probably be the intellectual center, or it could be the emotional center for a lot of people. Probably not too many body instinctive types; they don’t usually show up that often in institutions of higher education.

Each of those kinds of centers have their effect on the kind of automated processing of input that comes in. That’s why the information flow arrows go two ways; each takes in information to a particular center, which affects the way these automated processes vary and modulate what you think is actually out there in the world. And the final creation of all these things is your internal experiential processes – your story, your inner life, and things like that.

Now the interesting thing is that Gurdjieff said we actually have five centers, or “brains” or processes, not just three. I think he mainly called them brains. I think centers and processes is a better word for it than brains. There’s a higher intellectual center and a higher emotional center, and the interesting thing Gurdjieff taught about it was that while among our ordinary three centers, one of them is overdeveloped and the other two are generally greatly underdeveloped, the higher emotional and higher intellectual centers are already fully developed and fully functioning. There’s a higher intellectual center that already has enormous understanding of reality, and a higher emotional center that already has a higher, enormous understanding of value, and I’m deliberately stressing the word value in there.

But for all practical purposes, most of the time these two centers might as well not exist. That’s why I’ve put “noise” there in the figure blocking the inputs from these two higher centers. These centers send their judgments and evaluations about reality to us and they kind of bounce right off. Our constant internal chatter creates a screen of noise that these higher centers can almost never get through.

Once in a while they get through, and people often talk about a “mystical experience” or a “revelatory” experience at that point. Those higher centers are up in what we might call the transpersonal level. The ordinary centers – the stuff we’ve been focusing on, are just down in the more ordinary, physical, material kind of realm.

But the two are related in the sense that as long as the noise level is very high, it’s very hard for the transpersonal realm to manifest. The analogy I often use is the transpersonal realm is like a couple of very wise people at a cocktail party trying to give you important messages, but it’s a cocktail party. You can’t hear them! The noise is going on. You want to dance and gossip, and these two funny-looking folks are whispering over in the corner.


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