As in all models of what a human being is, this is as useful idea to quickly identify one’s primary orientation to the world: physical, emotional, intellectual. Though useful on one level, such simplification also overlooks the vast neurobiology occurring at any given time in the totality of one’s existence. No one part or “center” can ever be separated from the total system of oneself. It is useful to view these centers as “aspects” or “processes” that are occurring at any given moment.
The three centers referred to in the Work are intellectual center, emotional center and moving/instinctive center – simply stated: our thoughts, our emotions and our bodily sensations or movements. Complete self-observation in any moment consists of non-critical awareness of all three centers. One can become more balanced by developing or accessing their non-primary process/center(s) and in becoming aware of habitually using one center when another might be more effective.
“One of the most interesting ideas found in this system of teaching is that man has several different minds and that the intellect is only one of the minds he possesses. Each of these centers is ‘mind.’ Each of them represents a different kind of mind. Centers can be roughly compared with very delicate and extremely complex machines, each machine being designed for a different purpose and use. Moreover, each machine is made of separate smaller machines or of machines within machines, and these can work by themselves. That is, the whole center or whole machine can work, or only a small part of it. Everyone possesses these highly complex and delicate machines, but knowing nothing or next to nothing about them, people are liable to use them wrongly.”
-Maurice Nicoll, Commentaries, “Some Notes on Wrong Work of Centers, Part I” October 18, 1941, Vol. 1, p. 68
“The Work is to harmonize them, a task that becomes possible in the light of consciousness gained by self-observation and the application of knowledge and will.”
-Beryl Pogson, Brighton Work Talks
“According to Gurdjieff, the truth can be approached only if all the parts that make up a human being — the thought, the feeling and the body — are touched with the same force and in the particular way appropriate to each of them. Otherwise, development will inevitably be one-sided and, sooner or later, come to a stop. Without an effective understanding of this principle, all Work on oneself is sure to deviate from the aim. The essential conditions will be wrongly understood, and there will be a mechanical repetition of forms of effort that never go beyond a quite ordinary level.”
-Jeanne de Saltzman, The Reality of Being
Please see the various diagrams of the centers in the Commentary, Vol. 1, pp 76 – 86.