Functions and centers
[ch. 3, p. 62 of pdf]
On the first occasion he spoke of three centers, the intellectual, the emotional, and the moving, and tried to make us distinguish these functions, find examples, and so on. Afterwards the instinctive center was added, as an independent and self-supporting machine. Afterwards the sex center. I remember that some of his remarks arrested my attention.
For instance, when speaking of the sex center he said it practically never worked independently because it was always dependent on other centers, the intellectual, the emotional, the instinctive, and the moving. Then in speaking of the energy of centers he often returned to what he called wrong work of centers and to the role of the sex center in this work. He spoke a great deal about how all centers rob the sex center of its energy and produce with this energy quite wrong work full of useless excitement and, in return, give to the sex center useless energy with which it was unable to work.
I remember his words: "It is a very big thing when the sex center works with its own energy, but it happens very seldom."
[ch. 12, p. 261-266 of pdf]
"[S]ex 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 fetes? One thing only. Sex: it is the principal motive force of all mechanicalness. All sleep, all hypnosis, depends upon it.
"You must try to understand what I mean. 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 it is not the mechanicalness about which I am speaking. On the contrary sex which exists by itself and is not dependent on anything else is already a great achievement. But the evil lies in this constant self-deception!"
"What then is the deduction; should it be so or should it be changed?" asked someone.
G. smiled. "That is something people always ask," he said. "Whatever they may be speaking about, they ask: Ought it to be like that and how can it be changed; that is, what ought to be done in such a case? As though it were possible to change anything, as though it were possible to do anything. You at least ought to have realized by now how naive such questions are.
Cosmic forces have created this state of affairs and cosmic forces control this state of affairs. And you ask: Can it be left like that or should it be changed! God himself could change nothing. Do you remember what was said about the forty-eight laws? They cannot be changed, but liberation from a considerable portion of them is possible, that is to say, there is a possibility of changing the state of affairs for oneself, it is possible to escape from the general law. You should understand that in this case as well as in all others the general law cannot be changed. But one can change one's own position in relation to this law; one can escape from the general law. The more so since in this law about which I speak, that is, in the power of sex over people, are included many different possibilities. It includes the chief form of slavery and it is also the chief possibility of liberation. This is what you must understand.
" 'New birth,' of which we have spoken before, depends as much upon sex energy as do physical birth and the propagation of species. ...
[Paragraphs on the energy diagrams were moved to here: gurdjieff-on-kundalini-and-transmutation.htm ]
"Is complete sexual abstinence necessary for transmutation and is sexual abstinence, in general, useful for work on oneself?" we asked him.
"Here there is not one but a number of questions," said G. "In the first place sexual abstinence is necessary for transmutation only in certain cases, that is, for certain types of people. For others it is not at all necessary. And with yet others it comes by itself when transmutation begins.
"I will explain this more clearly. For certain types a long and complete sexual abstinence is necessary for transmutation to begin; this means in other words that without a long and complete sexual abstinence transmutation will not begin. But once it has begun abstinence is no longer necessary. In other cases, that is, with other types, transmutation can begin in a normal sexual life - and on the contrary, can begin sooner and proceed better with a very great outward expenditure of sex energy. In the third case the beginning of transmutation does not require abstinence, but, having begun, transmutation takes the whole of sexual energy and puts an end to normal sexual life or the outward expenditure of sex energy.
"Then the other question - 'Is sexual abstinence useful for the work or not?'
"It is useful if there is abstinence in all centers. If there is abstinence in one center and full liberty of imagination in the others, then there could be nothing worse. And still more, abstinence can be useful if a man knows what to do with the energy which he saves in this way. If he does not know what to do with it, nothing whatever can be gained by abstinence."
"Speaking in general, what is the most correct form of life in this connection from the point of view of the work?"
"It is impossible to say. I repeat that while a man does not know, it is better for him not to attempt anything. Until he has new and exact knowledge it will be quite enough if his life is guided by the usual rules and principles. If a man begins to theorize and invent in this sphere, it will lead to nothing except psychopathy.
"But it must again be remembered that only a person who is completely normal as regards sex has any chance in the work. Any kind of 'originality,' strange tastes, strange desires, or, on the other hand, fears, constantly working 'buffers,' must be destroyed from the very beginning. Modem education and modem life create an enormous number of sexual psychopaths. They have no chance at all in the work.
"Speaking in general, there are only two correct ways of expending sexual energy: normal sexual life and transmutation. All inventions in this sphere are very dangerous.
"People have tried abstinence from times beyond memory. Sometimes, very rarely, it has led to something but in most cases what is called abstinence is simply exchanging normal sensations for abnormal, because the abnormal are more easily hidden.
Abuse of Sex
"But it is not about this that I wish to speak. You must understand where lies the chief evil and what makes for slavery. It is not in sex itself but in the abuse of sex. But what the abuse of sex means is again misunderstood. People usually take this to be either excess or perversion. But these are comparatively innocent forms of abuse of sex. And it is necessary to know the human machine very well in order to grasp what abuse of sex in the real meaning of these words is. It means the wrong work of centers in relation to sex, that is, the action of the sex center through other centers, and the action of other centers through the sex center; or, to be still more precise, the functioning of the sex center with energy borrowed from other centers and the functioning of other centers with energy borrowed from the sex center."
"Can sex be regarded as an independent center?" asked one of those present.
"It can," said G. "At the same time if all the lower story is taken as one whole, then sex can be regarded as the neutralizing part of the moving center."
"With what 'hydrogen' does the sex center work?" asked another.
[See diagrams at the bottom of this page: gurdjieff-on-kundalini-and-transmutation.htm ]
This question had interested us for a long time but we had not previously been able to answer it. And G., when he had been asked before, had never given a direct reply.
"The sex center works with 'hydrogen' 12," he said on this occasion, "that is to say, it ought to work with it. This is si 12. But the fact is that it very rarely works with its proper hydrogen. Abnormalities in the working of the sex center require special study.
"In the first place it must be noted that normally in the sex center as well as in the higher emotional and the higher thinking centers, there is no negative side. In all the other centers except the higher ones, in the thinking, in the emotional, in the moving, in the instinctive, in all of them there are, so to speak, two halves—the positive and the negative; affirmation and negation, or 'yes' and 'no,' in the thinking center, pleasant and unpleasant sensations in the moving and instinctive centers. There is no such division in the sex center. There are no positive and negative sides in it. There are no unpleasant sensations or unpleasant feelings in it; there is either a pleasant sensation, a pleasant feeling, or there is nothing, an absence of any sensation, complete indifference.
"But in consequence of the wrong work of centers it often happens that the sex center unites with the negative part of the emotional center or with the negative part of the instinctive center. And then, stimulation of a certain kind of the sex center, or even any stimulation at all of the sex center, calls forth unpleasant feelings and unpleasant sensations. People who experience unpleasant feelings and sensations which have been evoked in them through ideas and imagination connected with sex are inclined to regard them as a great virtue or as something original; in actual fact it is simply disease. Everything connected with sex should be either pleasant or indifferent. Unpleasant feelings and sensations all come from the emotional center or the instinctive center.
"This is the 'abuse of sex.'
It is necessary, further, to remember that the sex center works with 'hydrogen' 12. This means that it is stronger and quicker than all other centers. Sex, in fact, governs all other centers. The only thing in ordinary circumstances -- that is, when man has neither consciousness nor will -- that holds the sex center in submission is 'buffers.'  'Buffers' can entirely bring it to nought, that is, they can stop its normal manifestation. But they cannot destroy its energy. The energy remains and passes over to other centers, finding expression for itself through them; in other words, the other centers rob the sex center of the energy which it does not use itself.
[1. See chapter 8.]
"The energy of the sex center in the work of the thinking, emotional, and moving centers can be recognized by a particular 'taste,' by a particular fervor, by a vehemence which the nature of the affair concerned does not call for. The thinking center writes books, but in making use of the energy of the sex center it does not simply occupy itself with philosophy, science, or politics -- it is always fighting something, disputing, criticizing, creating new subjective theories.
"The emotional center preaches Christianity, abstinence, asceticism, or the fear and horror of sin, hell, the torment of sinners, eternal fire, all this with the energy of the sex center. ... Or on the other hand it works up revolutions, robs, bums, kills, again with the same energy. The moving center occupies itself with sport, creates various records, climbs mountains, jumps, fences, wrestles, fights, and so on.
"In all these instances, that is, in the work of the thinking center as well as in the work of the emotional and the moving centers, when they work with the energy of the sex center, there is always one general characteristic and this is a certain particular vehemence and, together with it, the uselessness of the work in question. Neither the thinking nor the emotional nor the moving centers can ever create anything useful with the energy of the sex center. This is an example of the 'abuse of sex.'
"But this is only one aspect of it. Another aspect consists in the fact that, when the energy of the sex center is plundered by the other centers and spent on useless work, it has nothing left for itself and has to steal the energy of other centers which is much lower and coarser than its own.
"And yet the sex center is very important for the general activity, and particularly for the inner growth of the organism, because, working with 'hydrogen' 12, it can receive a very fine food of impressions, such as none of the ordinary centers can receive. The fine food of impressions is very important for the manufacture of the higher 'hydrogens.' But when the sex center works with energy that is not its own, that is, with the comparatively low 'hydrogens' 48 and 24, its impressions become much coarser and it ceases to play the role in the organism which it could play.
"At the same time union with, and the use of its energy by, the thinking center creates far too great an imagination on the subject of sex, and in addition a tendency to be satisfied with this imagination. Union with the emotional center creates sentimentality or, on the contrary, jealousy, cruelty. This is again a picture of the 'abuse of sex.' "
"What must be done to struggle against the 'abuse of sex'?" asked somebody present.
"I was just waiting for that question," he said. "But you already ought to understand that it is just as impossible to explain to a man who has not yet begun to work on himself and does not know the structure of the machine what the 'abuse of sex' means, as it is to say what must be done to avoid these abuses.
"Right work on oneself begins with the creation of a permanent center of gravity. When a permanent center of gravity has been created everything else begins to be disposed and distributed in subordination to it. The question comes to this: From what and how can a permanent center of gravity be created? And to this may be replied that only a man's attitude to the work, to school, his valuation of the work, and his realization of the mechanicalness and aimlessness of everything else can create in him a permanent center of gravity.
"The role of the sex center in creating a general equilibrium and a permanent center of gravity can be very big. According to its energy, that is to say, if it uses its own energy, the sex center stands on a level with the higher emotional center. And all the other centers are subordinate to it. Therefore it would be a great thing if it worked with its own energy. This alone would indicate a comparatively very high level of being. And in this case, that is, if the sex center worked with its own energy and in its own place, all other centers could work correctly in their places and with their own energies."
[ end of chapter 12 ]