It is possible through self-observation to begin to see how we limit ourselves and only use the weakest part of our organism. Ouspensky outlines the situation when he discusses ‘parts of centres’:
“I want to tell you a little more about centres which will help you to understand the situation. Some centres are divided into two halves— positive and negative. This division is very clear in the intellectual and the instinctive centres. In the intellectual centre it is ‘yes’ and ‘no’, affirmation and negation. All the work of the intellectual centre consists of comparing. The division in the instinctive centre is quite plain: pleasure—pain. All instinctive life is governed by this. At a superficial glance it seems that the emotional centre also consists of two halves— pleasant and unpleasant emotions. But it is not really so. All our violent and depressing emotions and, generally, most of our mental suffering has the same character—it is unnatural, and our organism has no real centre for these negative emotions; they work with the help of an artificial centre. This artificial centre—a kind of swelling—is gradually created in us from early childhood, for a child grows surrounded by people with negative emotions and imitates them.
Q. Are instinctive emotions not negative?
A. They may be negative, but they are rightfully so. They are all useful. The negative half of the instinctive centre is a watchman warning us of danger. In the emotional centre negative emotions are very harmful. Then each half of a centre is divided into three parts: intellectual part,
emotional part and moving or mechanical part. The moving part of each centre is the most mechanical and the most often used. Generally we use only the mechanical parts of centres. Even the emotional parts are used only occasionally; as to the intellectual parts, they are very seldom used in ordinary conditions. This shows how we limit ourselves, how we use only a little part, the weakest part, of our organism. It is very easy to distinguish these three parts when we begin to observe ourselves. Mechanical parts do not need attention. Emotional parts need strong interest or identification, attention without effort or intention, for attention is drawn and kept by the attraction of the object itself. And in the intellectual parts you have to control your attention. When you get accustomed to control attention, you will see at once what I mean. First the character of the action will show you which centre you are in, and then observation of attention will show you the part of centre. It is particularly important to observe the emotional parts and to study the things that attract and keep the attention, because they produce imagination. Study of attention is a very important part of self-study, and if you begin to observe this division of centres into parts, in addition to the division of centres themselves, it will give you the possibility of coming to smaller details and will help you to study attention.”
Extract from ‘The Fourth Way’, P.D. Ouspensky.