Stephen Aronson. Bodies – Higher and Lower

All & Everything International Humanities Conference

The Paradox

Gurdjieff says he brought to the West a method of accelerated development, accelerated transformation. To develop what? To transform what?

He talks extensively about higher potential functionality above our ordinary type of thinking, emotional reacting, and mechanical/instinctive programming. He suggests two ‘higher’ arenas of functionality for each of which he has several names: a) higher emotional body, higher emotional center or Kesdjan body, and b) higher being body, or higher mental body, or higher intellectual body, or body of higher Reason, or the Soul. He told P. D. Ouspensky alternately both that: 1) they have to be developed by certain practices and 2) that they already exist, are fully functioning and trying to communicate with us but that we don’t hear them and need to build a connection from our ordinary ‘mind’ to these higher parts of Mind.

From the level of ordinary thinking, this appears paradoxical. Our ordinary thinking operates by defining things as either/or, yes/no, agree/disagree. It is binary in its world view. To solve the riddle of Gurdjieff’s Higher Body paradox, we must first find a way to see that both his statements are true, dependent on the perspective of viewing. The ultimate resolution is to experience, to connect, our awareness to these higher functions. But, prior to that experience, how can we think about them from our current level of development?

He also says that to “develop” these higher bodies … or our connection with them … we must “coat” them or “fuse” them or make them permanent in some way. What can this mean? How can we “coat” our higher being bodies if they do not yet exist, and we have to develop them? Would the process of trying to develop them cause them to become “coated”? Or, if they already ‘exist’ fully functioning and are trying to communicate with us, would our efforts to build a ‘bridge’ to them be the “coating” process? Is it the ‘bridge’ that we would be coating as we try to construct it? And “coat” with what? How? Gurdjieff tells us that we coat the higher emotional body with parts of the ‘air’ we breathe, that normally is not be used by the body without a special kind of attention ‘that must be paid’ to the breath. He also suggests we coat the higher being body through digesting differently the constant river of impressions flowing into and through our brain.

“… if the said mechanical instinct in these biped three-brained beings of that planet should develop towards the attainment of Objective Reason … as usually occurs everywhere among three-brained beings… [BT p. 88]

“It was only because they failed to realize “being-partkdolg-duty”, which realization alone enables a being to become aware of genuine reality … [bt p. 104] … (and) … by means of which alone it is possible for three­brained beings to acquire in their presences the data for coating their said higher-parts [BT p. 438] (author italics)

Whichever view we take; the concept of a ‘bridge’ seems a reconciling image with which to begin. If the higher centers already exist and are waiting for our connection, then the bridge is our channel to them. If they do not yet exist, we would need to build a connection to the location where they would then have to be constructed. Or, maybe the ‘bridge’ is more like an opening that we must make, through which can then flow the language of our higher emotions and thoughts.

Mental Escape from Duality

From the perspective of our ordinary, sense-based level of reasoning, dependent on information from the outside, available through the sensory organs, it is obvious that two things cannot occupy the same space at the same time. However, this law only applies to material, mass-based objects, yet it is mistakenly applied to the inner world of feelings and concepts. In its ignorance, our ordinary thinking tries to understand our non-material psychological experiences by applying this same outer-world our subjective inner world. Thus, the experience of having “mixed feelings” or “being of two minds,” or “the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak,” can produce a conundrum for our literal thinking.

A mind free of the prison of duality can think in terms of relativity. Of course, I can have mixed feelings and be of two (or more) minds on an issue. if I recognize that my personality is fractured into many sub-parts of different chronological ages and inclinations. “Man is Legion.” As a man or woman, so also am I. With this shift in perspective, there is no problem in recognizing that my inner world is often fractured and not a united Whole, and that different feelings and different thoughts can mix together more like liquids and gases than physical objects. Perhaps, from the level of my ordinary, literal, binary mind, I cannot conceive such “higher bodies,” either in potential or already existing, because my senses cannot verify them or conceptualize a non­massed based ‘location’ for them.

Phenomena Not Confirmable by the Senses

Yet, aren’t there phenomena I do already accept as real . but without confirmation by my senses? I know I have thoughts in my head and feelings in my chest and gut and sensations throughout my physical body. I know I have hunches, insights, daydreams, night dreams, longings, opinions. If I am honest, I must admit that I do not know how I know these things. As they are a continuous part of my life experience, I tend to accept them without noticing the mystery of their operation. Yet, I must recognize that I do experience these phenomena inside my body, heart, and mind and not through my outer senses. So, there is obviously a mechanism for subjective experience other than my outward-facing sense organs. Might this interior information-gathering system be a starting point for exploring this question of other ‘bodies’?

What can I confirm so far in this search? I am sure these presumed higher bodies do not exist outside of myself and therefore are not confirmable by my outward facing sense receptors. I will have to look inside. I can, in some way not explainable, ‘see,’ ‘hear,’ ‘feel,’ ‘sense’ inside myself. Using this interior ‘knowing’ system, where would I look to locate the “higher bodies”? What would I ‘look’ for? What could Gurdjieff mean by higher “bodies”?

Higher Bodies

In introducing this question with P. D. Ouspensky, Gurdjieff compares the terms used by different philosophical and religious systems to characterized these ‘higher’ bodies. He notes that in history, the physical body has, at times, also been referred to as “first body, carnal body, “carriage body.” The “second body” has been called the “horse” (feelings and desires), the “natural body, the “Astral body and the Kesdjan body.” The “third body” has been known as “spiritual body,” “Driver” (mind) and “mental body.” A “fourth body” has been known as “Divine body,” “Master” (I, consciousness, Will), and the “Causal body.”

He further suggests two directions of control or influence in how these ‘bodies’ relate to each other. “The chief difference between the functions of a man possessing the physical body only and the function of the four bodies, is that, in the first case, the functions of the physical body govern all the other functions, in other words, everything is governed by the (physical) body which, in its turn, is governed by external influences. In the second case, command and control emanate from the higher body.” [In Search of the Miraculous p.41-2]

Thus, the “highest body” present, has the lower bodies under its control, or at least under its influence. “In the first case.. .that is, in relation to the functions of a man of the physical body only, the automaton depends upon external influences, and the next three functions depend upon the physical body and the external influences it receives. Desires or aversions – ‘I want,’ ‘I don’t want,’ ’I don’t like’ – that is functions occupying the place of the second body, depend upon accidental shocks and influences. Thinking, which corresponds to the function of the third body, is an entirely mechanical process. ‘Will’ is absent in ordinary mechanical man; he has desires only, and a greater or lesser permanence of desires and wishes is called a strong or weak will.

In the second case, that is, in relation to the functions of the four bodies, the automatism of the physical body depends upon the influences of the other, “higher” bodies. Instead of the discordant and often contradictory activity of different desires, there is a one single I, whole, indivisible, and permanent; there is individuality, dominating the physical body and its desires and able to overcome both its enthusiasms and its resistances. Instead of the mechanical process of thinking, there is consciousness. And there is will, that is, a power, not merely composed of various often contradictory desires belonging to different “I’s,” but issuing from consciousness and governed by individuality or a single and permanent I. Only such a will can be called “free,” for it is independent of accident and cannot be altered or directed from without.”

In his presentation to Ouspensky, Gurdjieff depicts two different directional flows depending on the development of these bodies. When the physical body is dominant, the “automaton (is) working by external influences. Desires (are) produced by the automaton. Thoughts proceeding from desires and different and contradictory “wills” (are) created by desires.” On the other hand, when the highest body of “I, Ego, Consciousness and Will” is present, “thinking functions obey consciousness and will, emotional powers and desires obey thought and intelligence and the body obey desires and emotions which are subject to intelligence.” [ISM p. 41-43]

Natural Maturation and Higher Capacities

We all recognize this distinction in our own behaviors, reactions, and experiences. The social education of a child requires training the body to submit to feelings of responsibility or shame or fear, to control its socially “unacceptable” manifestations. The emotions need to be brought under the control of a mental understanding of rules and their underlying reasons so that temper tantrums, normal at young ages, do not erupt from adult bodies. We all know the problems this can create for ourselves and others when this control mechanism breaks down. So, from our ordinary life impressions, we can easily recognize a hierarchy of control mechanisms within ourselves from the physical to the emotional to the intellectual

We also can recognize that long term goals, values, principles, longings, can direct, if not control, thinking, feeling and then body manifestations, (when we remember our aim), and when we have sufficient will to continue to manifest in their direction in the face of resistance from the “lower bodies” which do not share in these more ephemeral wishes.

In our ordinary language, we recognize a body of experience, a body of learning, a body of emotional understanding, a body of work. What are we referring to here? Why do we use this word “body” in this way? We recognize an organized constellation of guiding values or an intellectual framework through which all experiences are filtered prior to the physical body manifesting a response to the situation. We have observations like, “The experience shaped his interests from then on. It changed him. He became a different person afterwards”. Our interests, our values, our habitual patterns have ‘shapes’, architecture that can become fixed and determinative over time.

What has “taken shape”, become organized? What may have become cohesive to such a degree that it has become a permanent ‘structure’ in our psychological world? As a normal person matures, they develop increasingly ‘higher’ (more “mature”) psychological ‘structures’ that bring increased capacity for perception, understanding, and control over our lower mechanical nature, that does not exist for less mature people without this more advanced internal psychic architecture. These ‘higher’ capacities allow for very different qualities of impressions. The learning derived from these different qualities of experience collect in our psyche and may coalesce into new, permanent ‘structures’ of understanding and perspective.

Perhaps the psychological ‘body’ we are most familiar with is what we call our “Personality”, the collection of all our learning, automatic and otherwise, all our conditioned preferences, all our neurotic habits, the narrative we call “my story” which we tell to our self, and others, to delineate who we believe we are. People in whom personality is not firmly organized, not crystallized, suffer from emotional and mental instabilities requiring treatment. This requires, among other interventions, the necessity to change the pattern of thinking about one’s self conditioned over a lifetime.

Maturation, Brain Structure and Coating

Thoughts are vibratory fields in the brain which change the structure of its interior and, if projected outward, create new patterns in the world outside. The shape of our wishes, our ideas, our aspirations may become a body of emotional valuation that contains them, preserves them and uses them as a filter for discernment and making choices .

Thus, in a literal sense, people in whom these are developed have brains that function differently, are different kinds of people, than those without them. The architecture of their thinking, values, and experiences provides for a qualitatively different subjective experience of themselves, of others, and of what seems to be “reality.”

We know from neurological research that the energy that runs brains is substantially electrical. We know that moving electrical currents induce electromagnetic fields. When electrical currents are conditioned to run through our brain repeatedly in particular patterns, what we call “learning” occurs. With repeated stimulation, nerve cells develop a “coating” called myelination. This insulation ‘hardens’ the pathways ‘learned’ from the repeated stimulated patterns. This coating, or hardening, of the nerve cell membrane acts as an insulator and maintains a strong signal by keeping the electric current from leaking. It is like a tougher ‘skin’ that forms to protect the information being transmitted from being lost in transit. The pattern formed by these ‘hardened’ electromagnetic fields is, in a manner of speaking, the form, the imprint of what has been learned. The pattern becomes “hard-wired.” Can this phenomenon, unknown in Gurdjieff’s time, be called “coating” or “crystallization”?

It is interesting that Gurdjieff uses this terminology. Skin is the body’s largest organ and also includes the digestive tract. The skin protects from external pathogens, virus, parasites and fluid leakage. It, itself, is a protective, insulating covering. In my years as a psychotherapist, I would often use similar language when showing clients how to build a “protective coating” in their emotional world so that they would be able to be less sensitive to emotional triggers in their environment. I would tell them that they needed to build a psychological “immune” system to keep psychological toxins out and the new growing understanding they were achieving from leaking out in reaction.

Gurdjieff says that the Higher Emotional Body, or the Body Kesdjan, has the same shape as the physical body … but on the inside. “A new octave then develops within the organism, not outside it. This is the birth of the ‘astral body’. You must understand that the ‘astral’ body is born of the same material, of the same matter, as the physical body, only the process is different. The whole of the physical body, all its cells, are so to speak permeated by emanations of the matter si 12. And when they have become sufficiently saturated the matter si 12 begins to crystallize. The crystallization of this matter constitutes the formation of the ‘astral body’. (ISM 255­56) . But in the ordinary conditions of life the production by the human factory of the finer ‘hydrogens’ in which, from the point of view of the possibility of higher states of consciousness and the work of higher centers . is insufficient and they are all wasted on the existence of the factory itself. If we could succeed in bringing the production up to possible maximum . then the whole of the body, all tissues, all cells, would become saturated with these fine hydrogens which would gradually settle in them crystallizing in a special way. This crystallization of the fine hydrogens would gradually bring the whole organism onto a higher level, onto a higher place of being.” (ISM p 180)

Anyone who has had experiences with intense, deep sensing of the body, may have had the realization that their Awareness was inside a double layer; first the outer skin of the body and second, the interior coating of the body, through sensitizing the inner-most layer of skin tissue. Many sketches of this discovery can be found in mystical artwork when there are shown two (or more) human outlines, one inside the other. ** Russian nesting dolls are an objective work of art demonstrating this principal. Would a formed Kesdjan body protect us from becoming ‘possessed’ by passions, the essence of emotional leakage? In Gurdjieff’s language, this coated body would protect us from falling into “identification”.

A fundamental principle of the Work is the training of Attention to ‘wake up’ in a moment and then strengthen itself, harden or ‘coat’ itself, from its own efforts to divide itself and place part of itself into the sensation of the body. This ‘grounds’ attention and allows it to then be split and simultaneously directed to different areas of interest. By maintaining the ‘ground’ as a protection against distraction, attention can study other areas of the emotional and mental worlds without falling so quickly into identification. It is increasingly able to engage in this type of search because efforts to sense have developed an interior ‘skin’ on the inside tissue of the body, which is now sensitive to the vibrations of attention. Perhaps the ‘skin’ of a ‘coated’ Higher Intellectual Body of Degrees of Reason would be a body of permanent intent, with consciousness fixed on a search for truth and fact. This would protect from distracting attacks on Attention from thought forms and obsessions and thus decrease ‘leakage” of mental energy.

Neurological research has confirmed that the brains of meditators are different from the brains of non­meditators. The practice, as with any learning, re-wires and builds new connections that facilitate the beneficial results of prolonged meditation practice. What happens in the brains of people practicing Gurdjieff’s techniques of divided attention, body sensing, self-observation, non-identification, self-remembering? If, after many years of “work on oneself,” new capacities develop for escaping reactivity, diminishing conditioning, dramatic alterations in the sense of self and the meaning of life, increased frequency and duration of “states” of Presence in which attention can be volitionally directed to multiple brain locations simultaneously, to what can we attribute these changes? This scientific research has yet to be done, but the obvious likelihood is that the very structure of the brain’s neural network has changed, just as it does with any learning process …. but changed such that there is greater sensitivity to more subtle, higher vibrational frequencies coming from beyond ordinary life into our inner subjective awareness, and yet invisible to our outward-facing senses.

From the beginning of my entry into the Work, I have wondered if many of the tasks, exercises and preparations were designed to increase the communication across the Corpus Callosum connecting the left and right hemispheres. Although today’s researchers tell us the original concept of Left-Brain Right-Brain differences were simplistic, there is continuing information to suggest that the left side focuses primarily on the world in a linear way while the right side is more holistic. Gurdjieff says in the state he calls “waking sleep”, our attention lives in our literal mind, which we believe is our ‘conscious’ mind, but he says this is not so. Our higher mind is what we call our ‘subconscious’ mind, that is the seat of creativity, feeling, values .the invisible realm. Could he be referring to the two hemispheres? When we practice dividing attention and sending it to different parts of our body, we are really directing attention around the different regions of the brain associated with those parts, opening up channels, perhaps across the ‘bridge’ of the Corpus Callosum . and/or . establishing a permanent location for Attention between and connecting the two different brains, uniting them in mutual awareness?

New capacities bring new functionality. Something novel has developed. Were these higher capacities always present but needed to be connected through the application of divided-directed attention, “being-partkdolg- duty”, with the normally developed parts of the brain by building pathways to them? Were these capacities not in existence, but only in potential, when inner work began, but were then “built” through persistent effort to challenge the mind in new ways, which in turn challenged the structure of the brain to alter in response? At this point, does it practically make a difference which answer is correct? If one’s response is, “No”, then perhaps this is an entry into the level beyond binary attitude.

Experience of Lower Centers

What are the characteristic subjective experiences when the “lower centers” are operating? First, Gurdjieff tells us that the lower, ordinary centers are characterized by binary thinking and conditioned emotional reactions and characterized the energy of these levels, which he called psychological level “48,” which focuses on ordinary life with a non-negative attitude and level “96”, the realm of negativity and narcissism. J.G. Bennet, in his system of Energies, refers to these qualities of psychological functioning as representing different levels of potential selfhood, which he calls the “Reactional Self” and the “Divided Self.” He suggests they are fueled by qualities of energy, which he calls “material,” “sensitive,” and “conscious”. It is these three levels, or qualities, or energies that define our ‘ordinary’ experience of life which we assume constitutes the complete ‘reality’ available to us.

At this level of ordinary, ‘mechanical’ thinking and feeling, there is no awareness of oneself as the Witness. There is only the experience happening at that time, the experiencing of whatever the limited quality of attention is currently recording, and the conditioned emotional reactions and train of associations stimulated by the type of attention in that moment. There is no attention available to focus simultaneously on ‘myself’ as an independent part of the experience at that point in time.. .no awareness of myself as an entity within my body…no awareness of myself as the ‘experienced of the awareness of myself inside my mind as the ‘viewer’, the ‘audience’ of the mental activity we call thought and image. Any sense of and memory of “oneself” in the moment are conditioned concerns about comfort, self-image and mechanical protection of the interests of personality.

Presumably, the energies available at this ordinary level are not of sufficient potency to provide access to perspectives of higher impressions and experiences. The information encoded at higher ‘frequencies’ is not discernable to ordinary mind . the mind functioning at the second stage of consciousness . because its neuronal architecture is insufficient for their reception and hence, they are presumed by it, not to exist.

The fact that there exist the phenomena of thinking, remembering, daydreaming, planning, feeling, and reacting, even in the ordinary sense, is a stunning mystery in itself. Yet, it is also a fact that all normal people with functioning brains have these experiences continuously. As a result, we have long ago become habituated to these phenomena, taken them for granted and cannot see the possibility of their expansion.

Brain Mapping

Neuroscience has located many areas in the physical brain, which appear to correlate with the locations of specific functions and experiences. But, knowing the locations in the geography of the brain which display changes in electrical activity associated with specific feelings, or images or thoughts or movements, doesn’t explain how the subjective experience of these phenomena actually occur, how they are stored, how they can be experienced by the ‘viewer’ inside the brain, who or what that ‘viewer’ is or what the evolutionary point of these functions may be for. In a Darwinian sense, capacities, and functions that facilitate species survival will eventually displace functions that no longer serve a purpose or serve it as well. Why do we have these ‘higher’ capacities for concept building, image-making, and sensitivity to subtle feelings and values? What do these functions serve? Are they only concerned with the survival of the physical body? Do they have anything to do with that body? All forms of Life have bodies, but only humans can build concepts, make images, and use symbols.

Subjective Experience and the Quantum Realm

It is part of our every-day experience that through education, training, and new situations, we experience the growth of new capacities to relate to the world around us. We learn new skills, new facts, develop latent talents. So, the idea that there may be still ‘higher’ subjective capacities that can be developed, or accessed, actually fits our current understanding. Perhaps the difference is that these other, ‘higher’, capacities would give access to our inner subjective life rather than the outside world of the senses and physical bodies.

Gurdjieff, in conversations with Ouspensky, suggests everything in the Universe is made of “atoms of God.” [ISM p .87] When these atoms of God combine into increasingly complex and dense formations which our senses can recognize, what we call ‘matter’ appears. It only seems ‘solid’ because we cannot see the finer atomic granularity.

Modern science recognizes the hydrogen atom as the smallest of the atomic units and the basic parent atom of everything we call material, all of which consist of greater and greater densities and combinations of hydrogen atoms. But the atom is far from being the smallest of ‘particles.’

Quantum physics is still searching for the initial sub-atomic particle from which everything else is made through various combinations of the hypothesized prime particle. At this point in time, six ‘elementary’ particles, not made of combinations of other particles, are known. Other theorized elementary particles, such as the presumed “graviton” are still avoiding detection.

What has been so far revealed is that not only are we made of cells and the cells are made of molecules and the molecules are made of atoms, but the atoms also are made from their sub-atomic constituents. Material objects, such as our bodies, appear, in actuality, to be collections of infinitesimal ‘particles’ held in a particular pattern for a period of time by electromagnetic fields that give them shape and temporary stability. There is some speculation in physics that all material forms, including the life forms we call human, may be “standing waves” of vibrations that hold their shape for a period of time and eventually subside, disintegrate and “die”.

For each of our organs and body parts, their cellular constituent particles turn over every few days to months or perhaps years, but turn over they do, to be replaced by new temporary place holders … with the exception of brain cells that appear to last for our lifetime. Compared to all our other cells, neurons are immortal. **

If we could see a time-lapse viewing of our bodies in this way, we would see a shimmering ‘atmosphere’ in the shape of a person, inside of which minuscule particles of energy were flowing in, through and out the other side continuously or blinking on and off as they appeared in existence then left existence. Still, the shape of the ‘atmosphere’ would remain. We would see that at the smallest levels, there is nothing ‘solid’ about us, and our substrate is continually changing. Its refinement and lack of density is a state of matter infinitely less than gaseous.

Neuroscience has recently begun to recognize that subjective experience may have its ultimate basis in the sub­atomic realm. There is growing speculation that although the brain is material, our minds may be quantum in nature. That would mean that our ‘minds’, the container of all the information that creates the impression of us, and the home of That which experiences its own subjective experiences, is not solid, has no mass, is a temporarily contained arena of mixtures of very refined energies, held in a specific “shape” by an electro­magnetic field.


What aspect of reality can meet this definition? Our ancestors had a premonition about this. Earth, Air, Water and Fire were observed as the four states of existence. What the ancients called fire, our science now knows as plasma, the fourth state of matter. Matter can be defined as a repeated pattern of particles in different stages of density and vibration. If you add enough heat to a rock (Earth) it will melt and become liquid (Water). Continue to add heat and water transforms into steam (Air). Continue to add heat and the electrons surrounding the atoms that constitute the water molecules (steam) begin to vibrate so rapidly that they leave their orbits around their nuclei and develop a negative electric charge in relation to the positively charged protons in the nucleus. This arena, or field, of electrons is in motion. Moving electrons create electricity. The flowing electricity generates magnetism, and the blending of electricity and magnetism creates an electro­magnetic “field”, a defined area with a shape and degree of permanence as long as the electromagnetic impulse exists in that location. Plasma has three qualities or stages or ‘bodies’ ... dark, glowing, and incandescent. These different qualities relate to the quality of the energy moving through the field of charged particles. The energy makes them vibrate, thus increasing the temperature.

Even more intriguing is the fact that as vibrational impulses of different frequencies are passed through a plasma, the particles will organize themselves into shapes. These shapes often resemble images and symbols that are historically associated with religious and mystical expression. This field of study, called Cymatics, suggests the possibility that the patterns of ionic plasma flowing through our brain may resonate in such a way as to produce our experience of thoughts and images. Those thoughts and images would be resonant images representing information carried by the stimulating energy. In this way, the information in the energy can be conveyed into our awareness, its accuracy correlated with the quality of consciousness receiving its impressions. It is interesting that images of Saints are presented with a “halo” surrounding their heads . as if perhaps their level of consciousness has reached the “glow” stage of plasma.

If our minds are experiencing from the quantum realm, this suggests that Gurdjieff’s “hydrogens” and Bennett’s “energies”, are presciently referring to states of plasma. “Consciousness” appears to be a quality of the plasma state. As plasma fills the universe, . it may in fact . be what has been called the Void, the Ether, or Gurdjieff’s “Ethernokrilno”. That would establish our awareness as an underlying quality of the Universe. Would the origin of the phenomena of directed attention and Will be located in the higher phases of plasma? Would there be an equivalent of the glow and incandescent stages in the transformation of psychological functions? Is there yet another level beyond this? What projects its impressions into the universal plasma to produce images that at our normal sensory level we experience as “material”? Gurdjieff calls it “Theomertmalogos” or “Word-God”.

What does this suggest about “higher” emotional and mental “bodies”? If their ‘world’ is in the quantum realm, can we assume they are a quality of plasma? If our “ordinary” mind is quantum in nature, then even higher capacities would certainly have this quality . at a minimum. Assuming that it is possible to develop, or connect to, capacities that have increasing clarity and depth of perception in the interior world of our hearts and minds … where and how do we look?

Looking for Higher Centers

This effort appears to be one of the prime aims of Gurdjieff’s wish to show us how to accelerate our possible evolution into humans with much greater sensitivity to our psychological processes. His recommended practices of sensing, dividing attention, non-identification, self-observation, and Self-remembering along with the methodological practices of tasks, Movements, sharing impressions, self-discipline, inner sincerity.and everything else in the library of Work methods which will challenge our brain to search for new neuronal connections with each attempt at these kinds of activities. Each repetition will begin to develop the myelin sheath around the neurons stimulated by the effort. Eventually, these new neuronal tracks and connections will harden, or crystallize, into increasingly permanent architecture. In time, efforts which initially were very difficult to make, maintain and control, become less challenging. Eventually, access to these new neuronal ‘structures’, will become easier and, perhaps in time, instantaneous to access … perhaps eventually becoming a permanent residence or ‘body’ for Attention to occupy.

What information will we be able to access with this hyper-sensitivity? As already mentioned, there is now growing speculation that subjective experiences may involve quantum phenomena. Gurdjieff foresaw this in 1913. In his initial presentation of the system to Ouspensky, Gurdjieff spoke of the higher emotional center as using the psychic energy level he called H24 or energy related to the world of the ‘planets’. Higher Mental Body utilizes a more subtle psychic energy that he labels H12 or functioning at the level of the ‘Sun’.

Gurdjieff’s H6 represents information from the “stars and galaxies”. J. G. Bennet’s system of Energies used different terminology, referring to these higher levels of ‘energies’ as Conscious, Creative, and Unitive. Gurdjieff said in 1913 that these were the energies of the psyche and were unknown to modern science.

How can we study ‘energies’ which science does not acknowledge as having an existence? Gurdjieff blends psychology and cosmology when he says that to study the Universe, we have to study man since man is an aspect of the Universe. He also says to study man we have to study the Universe as it is the energies and material of the Universe and its laws that created and maintain man. If these presumed ‘higher’ energies are ‘psychic’ in nature, subjective in nature and thus experience-able as aspects of the quantum dimension . and pertain to our possibilities for psychological/emotional experiences . then we can have direct access to their vibrations inside our hearts and minds . if we understand how to decode their information. How to direct the correct quality of attention into our deepest psychological levels is my understanding of the aim of Gurdjieff’s methodology.

Vibration is Information

Science now recognizes that all vibration is a carrier of information. The visible light that ignites our sight, the pressure waves of air that bring us the experience of sound, the molecules that stimulate our sense of smell and taste, are vibrations created by waves of energy impacting our bodies. When decoded by functioning sense organs and brain, they reveal information about their source, quality and the world around us. When we eat food, and smell odors and feel textures, we are literally experiencing what the outer world tastes, smells and feels like. Our impressions of this continual in-flow of electrical stimulation are food that drives our nervous system.

When we sense a change in our level of bodily tension or a sudden surge of anxiety or pleasure, we are responding to a change in vibrations inside our body … hence we are tasting and feeling the life of our inner subjective world and when we experience thoughts in our heads, we are aware of vibrational patterns of electricity (plasma currents) coursing through our nervous system.

None of these phenomena are ‘visible’ to other people. They are experienceable only to ourselves. They are phenomena in our psychological, emotional, and sensory world. Typically, they represent conditioned patterns long ago established by heredity, life events and our subjective interpretation of their meaning. This is the stage of consciousness Gurdjieff called “waking sleep”. If they are conditioned, but mundane, he refers to this level as “World 48”. If thoughts and reactions are negative in quality, he assigns them to a ‘level’ of psychological density he calls “World 96”. These qualities of psychic energy carry information from those levels. ‘World 48’ is the level of psychological energy we typically bring to our experience of the ordinary world around and inside us, a state of identification but not necessarily negative. “World 96” represents a collapse into an egoistic, fearful or narcissistic state in which the diameter of my field of attention narrows to a perspective so small that, subjectively, my sense of connection with others is broken and I function as if I were the center of the universe. Both these levels represent ‘states’ of consciousness, where the individual’s attention flows mechanically from one stimulus to another.

Experience of Higher Centers

Gurdjieff says there is a level of emotional experience in which there is no negativity, no duality, where one can experience being One with our neighbor. It is the level of impartiality where one can live the Golden Rule, put oneself in the place of another, experience compassion and empathy. Indeed, this quality of detachment from self-interest, (not detachment from concern for others), must come from a place that is detached, not a part of ordinary life, but still shares the suffering of life without falling into the state Gurdjieff calls ‘identification’ where attention collapses and is absorbed into the subject of its interest, where the sense of Self, along with its potential for objectivity, vanishes.

In Beelezebub’s Tales to His Grandson, Gurdjieff places a description of this higher emotional state above the entrance to the “Holy Planet Purgatory” as a requisite for entrance: “Only-He-May-Enter-Here-Who-Puts- Himself-In-The-Position-Of-The-Other-Results-Of-My-Labors”. (BT p. 1164) He also shares with us “the ninth commandment of our Creator, namely; do unto another’s as you would do unto your own” (BT p.92-3) and “the eighteenth personal commandment of our Common Creator which declared: love everything that breaths”. ( BT p 198)

Above all, this dimension of ‘higher emotions’ is the level at which one can experience ‘Conscience’ and accept its guidance. In his presentation to Ouspensky, he calls this “World 24” and says that on the “Ray of Creation” it is at the level of the ‘Planets.’ Epiphany, true vision, stages of higher “degrees of reason” represent some of the experiences possible at the quality of ‘World 12’, which he relates to the level of the ‘Sun.’ The increasingly higher levels of reason associated with Higher Mental Body can reach to the level of “World 6”, the realm of the ‘Stars’, near to, but not quite to the level of God … this being “the sacred Anklad … the highest to which in general any being can attain, being the third in degree from the Absolute Reason of His Endlessness Himself.” (BT p. 800 and 1177)

World of the Psyche

Astronomers can direct starlight through a prism and, from the vibratory patterns displayed, ‘read’ the composition of the star, its age, and other qualities. In this way, exoplanetary research is also now able to ‘see’ the composition of the atmosphere of planets in orbit around other stars. The chemical composition of nebulae can be understood from the analysis of different wavelengths of light. Organic molecules have been discovered this way, floating between the stars, waiting to join a planet, form an atmosphere and develop into lifeforms. Current speculation is that the entire Universe is information, waiting to be decoded by the appropriate instruments.

It may be that when we talk about the ‘quantity’ of vibration, we are talking about ‘matter,’ and when we talk about ‘quality’ of vibration, we are talking about ‘information.’

Perhaps the inner world of our psyche works on similar principles. After all, it is also part of the Universe and a part that does not appear to have mass or solidity in any understanding of that term, from a perceptible approach by sense or instrumentation. That would place it in the realm of what we, from our limited perspective, think of as pure energy rather than matter.

The brain itself is a dense arena of matter containing nearly infinite, constantly interacting vibrational patterns. What instrument could possibly read and respond to these patterns? Our ‘ordinary’ mind automatically and continuously interprets and codifies these patterns into our moment-to-moment experiences of both the world outside and our subjective world inside. It seems reasonable to assume that meditation develops an ability to perceive more deeply into the finer vibrations deeper in the mind, that tend to be drowned out by the ‘louder,’ more common patterns of daily experience. What levels, deeper yet, may be discovered with the instruments of divided attention, sensing, non-identification, and an increasingly quiet and less distracted mind?

The electromagnetic spectrum was discovered in 1800 and the existence of ‘waves’ as carriers of energy in the 1880s. Prior to that time, it had been common to use both the word energy and spirit to describe invisible forces presumed to operate the universe and life from behind the scenes. In earlier times, these forces were sometimes referred to as the ‘Neters’ or ‘gods.’ Today we use the term “energies”, in the hope of demystifying it and moving away from religion, but its roots are interchangeable with “spirit”. But the change in term only covers over the mystery.

Although science can see what energy can do, and can utilize it for our purposes, science has no idea of what energy is. Science, still today, could define energy as invisible forces presumed to operate the universe and life from behind the scenes. Do we assume that current science has discovered all there is to know? Ancient understandings, currently considered “primitive” by today’s accepted theories, are again being re-explored in fields outside the conventional medical-scientific paradigms. Acupuncture, osteopathy, environmental medicine, and a large number of ‘holistic’ explorations of new medical theories work on the assumption of finer, more subtle vibrations and pathways than currently recognized by modern science. as factors in the health of individuals and communities

As physics explores the quantum dimension with instruments to smash particles together to discover what they are made of, neuropsychology is turning its attention to consider the phenomenon of consciousness as a wave aspect of the quantum world. If our minds themselves are quantum and not Newtonian in operation, then our consciousness itself is part of that infinitely more subtle realm and can be privy to the information encoded at that level, when learning to pay attention in a deeper way … which means ... we are … I am ... you are … part of that infinitely more subtle realm and can be privy to the information encoded at that level … if we learn to pay attention in a deeper way.

Perhaps our lower conditioned mind is more like a programmed computer automatically searching its collection of pre-recorded impressions, labels, and experiences in order to distinguish patterns in the sea of 1 and 0’s, yes and no, likes and dislikes of its world.

Our ‘higher minds’ may represent a Self-Conscious Awareness that surfs the waves of encoded information at higher frequencies of the Universe.

Gurdjieff says the word “Kesdjan,” used in reference to the Higher Emotional Body, can be understood to mean “the sack of the Soul,” and he refers to the “Higher Being Body” or the “Higher Intellectual Body” as the “Soul.” J. G. Bennet said, “the Soul is a mind made stable and independent of the body.” [Transformation p.80] If the Soul is a quality of intellect that is to become stable and ‘free’ of the body’s pull on attention, connected to the underlying nature of the Universe, then when it applies its learnings to the ordinary life of the body and personality, it should be guided by Conscience, a ‘body’ of stable and compassionate values. If not, what can result is what G called a “Hasnamuss,” a person with a relatively awake, independent mind, but no ethical compass to guide or contain it.

The Sufi say, “The work of presence is first to purify and harmonize our conscious and subconscious faculties, to purify the heart around a single center; and second to patiently awaken those latent human faculties that have gone to sleep or atrophied. One day the heart may reach such contact with its own Source; it will gain an intimacy with the Creative Power and know the One behind multiplicity. It will rediscover its home in the unity of all that is. This possibility exists, and human beings are destined to realize it more and more. This is the complete human being, the drop that becomes the sea. It is not difficult, as our teachers told us, because we are made for it. We can either be empty with Spirit or full of ourselves. The Soul is a knowing substance. Ask it to inform you.” [Living Presence: A Sufi Way]

*: Skin cells live about two or three weeks. Colon cells die off after about four days. Sperm cells have a life span of only about three days, while brain cells typically last an entire lifetime (neurons in the cerebral cortex, for example, are not replaced when they die. Apr 4, 2011,


Bennett, J. G., Transformation, Claymont Court, Charles Town, W.V., 1978

Bennett, J. G., The Dramatic Universe, Claymont Court, Charles Town, W.V., 1966

Bloor, Robin, Gurdjieff’s Hydrogens, V 1, The Ray of Creation; Karnak Press, Austin, TX, 2021

Gurdjieff, G. I., Beelzebub’s Tales to His Grandson, Arkana, NY & London, 1999

Helminski, Kabir Edmund, Living Presence: A Sufi Way to Mindfulness & the Essential Self

Ouspensky, P., In Search of the Miraculous: Fragments of an Unknown Teaching, Harcourt Inc., NY & London 1949


My primary teacher, Dr. Keith Buzzell, told a story of two charts on the wall at his medical school. Each was a full-size outline of a human body. Inside each body was a dense network of inter-connecting lines which filled the entire outline of the body. One represented the blood circulatory system and the other the nervous system. He realized one could erase the outline provided by the skin and the complete body would still be visible, almost a solid filled with the dense network of “tubes” and “wires”. Both systems were totally integrated into the Whole, side by side, producing two integrated but separate forms of “bodies” for transporting energy.

With increasing ability to ‘sense’ the body and follow the breath, attention “spreads’ out throughout both systems, providing an expanding awareness inside the body. When Gurdjieff says that the second body, the Kesdjan body, has the same shape of the physical body, but is on the inside, that phrasing … and the experience of waking up inside … gives a strong impression resonant with this imagery. The attached images are not as detailed as what Dr. Buzzell saw since they don’t show the capillary system or the full extent of the millions of tiny afferent and efferent nerves serving every cell in the body, but they provide an interesting image of the possible experience that could come with “being Present in the body and the breath”.


The Human Nervous System


*** Addendum
At the time of my meeting the Work in the early 1980’s. I experienced a number of images flickering on and off
in my awareness. I began to sketch and collected a series of these images which represented subjective
experiences. In later years, I began to explore the area of esoteric art and discovered that the themes explored in
my primitive sketches were well represented. Below are three of my sketches that, in retrospect, are clearly
impressions relating to the theme of inner bodies

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