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The Four Lower Centers

Gurdjieff (1866-1949) a Greek-Armenian spiritual teacher, who brought a spiritual teaching to the West known as `The Work`, or `The Fourth Way`, explained that man has four different brains or centers, the emotional, intellectual, moving and instinctive brain. The emotional brain is a function through which we experience emotions related to people and impressions. The intellectual centre is a function that manifests as thought and reason. The moving centre is a function that enables one to move in one`s environment and design things. The instinctive centre takes care of the functioning of the human body, such as heart beat, growth of the body, activity of the senses, distribution of energy, and so on. It is interested in comfort rather than making effort. It is the only centre that is fully developed when one is born, the other three centers have to be educated.

Each centre is further divided in three parts; a mechanical part, an emotional part and an intellectual part. One can see which part is functioning by looking at the level of one`s attention. The mechanical part functions automatically without the need of paying attention to what it is doing. It can also be seen as the memory bank of the centre. Once one has learned a new language, one doesn’t have to pay attention anymore to the meaning of the words, they come out automatically. Once one has learned how to ride a bicycle, one doesn’t need to pay attention to staying balanced, and one can talk with a friend while riding it. The emotional part functions with attention, but it doesn’t take an effort on our part to sustain this attention. The attention is sustained by the interest in the subject. Examples are playing video games or enjoyment in playing a sport. The intellectual part also functions with attention but it requires an effort to sustain this attention. Examples are studying for an exam, learning to drive a car or creating a piece of art.


Picture cards from the common deck of cards

The four centres are represented in the four different suites of the common deck of playing cards. The playing cards have their origin in the Major Arcana of the Tarot cards, which traces back to Egypt. Clubs represent the instinctive center, spades represents the moving center, diamonds stands for the intelectual center and hearts for the emotional center. The parts of centers are symbolized by the different court cards. The kings symbolize the intellectual parts of centers, the queens refer to the emotional parts, and the jacks represent the mechanical parts. The King of Hearts is the gateway to the state of presence and is refered to as 'the heart' by most esoteric traditions.