A Comprehensive Introduction
This is the first of a series of posts devoted to one of the most interesting, but also most confusing topics inherent in Inner Development: Human Functions or, as many call them, Centers. Confusing, because it has remained mostly in the field of theories and not incorporated into a practice. There is a great tendency to speak about and formulate new theories, but only theories without experience, so even verifying them in practice has never awakened anyone.
A human being can achieve a higher state of Consciousness, but this is only a possibility, not a natural fact. We can also achieve the control of our Consciousness only through experience, so it requires a constant practice of observation. From the moment we begin to follow the Path towards Self-Development in a serious theoretical and practical way, we will face two main difficulties: the first one will be our ignorance (never mind how many texts about this argument we have read) concerning our nature, an ignorance which gives us the illusion that we can really count on our capacities, such as they are at this moment. The second problem is our mechanicity or automatism, which prevents us from acting in an efficient and emancipated way.
This topic has been contended with many times in the posts of this Blog. Once we have understood and accepted (if our pride permits us to accept this, even as a possibility), that we know almost nothing about ourselves, we have the possibility to remedy this condition. To do this, we can use “tools” that are integral parts of the psycho-physical human structure, which could be considered as a “machine”. Differently from many followers of the Theosophical system and Gurdjieff’s or Fourth Way System, which consider such terms reductive and disparaging, we use this term to define a complex of articulated and complex mechanics which require knowing and understanding of their correct functioning.
The “human machine” has seven functions, of which the study is of capital importance in order to realize our True Nature. These functions are: Intellectual, Emotional, Motoric, Instinctive, Sexual, Higher Emotional, and Higher Intellectual. The last two functions are not achievable from the ordinary state of being in which we are, because the Higher Emotional manifests itself only once we have achieved the state of Self-Consciousness or Self-Remembering. The Higher Intellectual appears only after having achieved, at least barely, an Objective Consciousness.
So, the Inner Work begins with the study of the theory and the particular techniques for the intellectual, emotional, motoric and instinctive functions.
This function encompasses all the mental processes: perception of impressions, creation of visual and conceptual representations, reasoning, association, comparisons, imagination, affirmation and denial, linguistic and discursive construction. Our ordinary mind recognizes everything in dualistic terms, dividing all into good-wrong, denial-affirmation, true-false, love-hate, friend-enemy, etc. This binary way of “thinking” prevents us from grasping a paradox in what we consider a “rational way”.
What is very important is to realize is that our ordinary mind (the intellectual function as it is without specific “training”), is strictly related to the field of emotions and sensations. Indeed, it makes symbolic representations (images and words) of what our senses have perceived from our birth to the present moment. This is one of the reasons of why, for example, mental patterns and behaviors are very different between different nations because of cultural specificity. We must also understand the interconnection between thoughts and emotions: these are two absolutely different functions, but they are often confused one with the other. A thought generates an emotion, and an emotion activates a series of corresponding thoughts, and this process is guided almost always from associative and automatic modalities.
Let us make an example: a word said by someone makes us remember (intellectual function) a series of situations previously experienced during our life. These thoughts activate the corresponding emotions which we have experienced in the various moments our mind evokes remembrance (emotional function). Then, the same emotions create new mental processes which join the past memories with the present, and this generates other emotions, etc. This is a never ending and apparently unstoppable process which is associative and mechanical (automatic), because it is not chosen or desired, and associative because we associate it to an event (in this case, the word said by a friend), a series of memories. This association continues in an automatic way, comparing the various past experiences with our present experience.
This is how our mind ordinarily functions, reacting through constant comparisons. Our memory intervenes systematically into our present experiences, arousing thoughts and emotions from the past which objectively, have almost nothing to do with what we are experiencing. We live in the past, and not in the present. And this occurs at almost every moment of our life.
This process is so constant and relevant from keeping us constantly far from the present moment, even if we have the illusory perception of living “here and now”. This is the reason why all the Ancient Schools dedicated to the Work of Inner Development marked the importance of achieving a “mental silence” and a control of the intellectual functions through meditative practices.
Entering into a mental silence, namely to slow and temporarily cease the associative dynamics, allows us to experience the present moment; every other condition extraneous to the time in which we live (now), is similar to a “dream state”, and describes the difficulty of maintaining ourselves in a state of constant awareness (Self-Remembering). If we are able to induce the mind into a non-temporal state through meditative practices, we have the possibility to gain new intellectual skills that usually do not exist in us.