Enneatype within Nicoll’s division of centres

Above: Maurice Nicoll’s diagram of the Emotional Centre, based on teachings by Ouspensky, from Nicoll’s Commentaries (book 1). Text reads: 1 – “mechanical expression of the emotions”; 2 – “all emotions relating to one’s own likes and dislikes. Personal emotions. 3 – “resultant of small desires, little daily ‘wills’.” II – Emotional part –  “religious emotions, aesthetic emotions, moral emotions, may lead to conscience”. Intellectual part – artistic creation (Chief seat of magnetic centre). Bottom – ‘negative part of emotional centre’.


(Note: the ideas in this post are more of the nature of a thought experiment and so may not exactly mesh with other theories posted, necessarily).

Gurdjieff’s original teachings on the instinctive, emotional and intellectual centres to his pupil Ouspensky in “In Search of the Miraculous” discuss how these can be further divided into mechanical, emotional and intellectual parts, but Ouspensky notes that this wasn’t explained in any great depth. Consequently, specific notes in the diagram above, presumably represent the ideas of Ouspensky for the most part (and/or the work of Nicoll himself). The most interesting idea here maybe that the ‘moving’ or ‘mechanical’ part of the centre, can then itself be further broken down into as it were a moving, quasi-emotional and quasi-intellectual levels.

Being particularly interested in how centres interact and particularly how they can interfere with each other, I found his models of the centres interesting.
According to Gurdjieff, people normally operate primarily from ‘just one part of each centre’ – which could be interpreted to mean, purely the ‘mechanical’ part of the centre.
Nicoll’s model then is interesting since it explains basically how multiple different sorts of functioning can be represented while keeping the idea that people work at basically the same level, and hence that growth up to higher levels is possible.
This can then also be looked at in terms of ‘types’ (or tritypes) – the types that normally operate in a centre would have fixations that are part of the ‘mechanical’ level of a centre.

So for example in the above, mechanical levels of the heart centre, we could align as

-4 in the emotional level of personal likes and dislikes
-3 in the intellectual level, goals and drives toward specific accomplishment.
-2 in the mechanical level

As noted above, the actual items listed there are the work of Ouspensky (or Nicholl), meaning that which levels go where, are rather debateable. For instance, it might actually make more sense to consider goals, ambitions, drives as active and so relate to the ‘moving part’ rather than intellectual, whereas dealing with complex interpersonal interactions could be in a sense a intellectual since it means ‘calculating’ what someone else feels.

The equivalent breakdowns for instinctive/moving is more complicated (because this is two centres in the Fourth Way which could be split among points in various ways, and/or involves complications trying to reconcile the idea of instinctual variants), so skipping over.

The intellectual centre in Nicoll’s diagram (similar to the above) is described as follows:
I: mechanical: “repetition of words and phrases, mechanical talking”
2: emotional part: “curiousity, inquisitiveness, a certain sort of imagination about others”
3: intellectual part: ‘shrewdness, craftiness, small plans.

Emotional: desire to know and understand, search for knowledge, imagination of higher kind.
Intellectual: “intellectual construction, creative thought and discovery

Here, comparisons to types are more ambigous, and (if possible) less flattering. “Planning” is the Seven fixation in Ichazo’s system, fitting the ‘small plans’ to moving/ intellectual, while 6 seems to fit ‘imagination about others’ [projection]…Items here may need some adjusting.

Growth & Higher Parts of Centres
Despite the fixation of the type being mechanical in nature, the lower part of the centre may occasionally work sufficiently well that it connects to the higher part of the centre. Probably there would be some correspondence there e.g. emotional part of the moving part to the actual ’emotional’ part, or intellectual part of the mechanical part to the actual ‘intellectual’ part.
If we immediately drop Nicoll’s definition and make empathy an intellectual part of emotional function say, then we can map someone being sympathetic in a forced or socially obligatory way [mechanical part] vs. genuine empathy [higher part]. (Or if a 1-to-1 connection is most likely, artistic creation should probably move to ’emotional’ part of emotional centre to match Four; Nicoll’s model is weird in ranking artistic creation to be higher than morality, IMHO).
This might be used to explain the difference between the (normal) and ‘high’ (integrated to) versions of a point, perhaps.

Oppositional Centre Theories
Note that models such as Hurley-Donson’s set up types as having both a ‘dominant centre’ and ‘repressed centre’. We might assume that actually everyone can do ‘mechanical’ versions of sensing, thinking, or feeling – with the ‘repressed centre’ really referring to a greater disconnection from a higher part of a centre.

Assuming a type doesn’t use a whole centre seems a) fairly extreme and b) removes differentiation between the types – we can’t distinguish between the types based on the centres they use. Instead assuming types prefer not to use one specific part of a centre makes it possible to differentiate between them – we could potentially go as far as mapping particular ‘Holy Ideas’ from Ichazo to particular parts of centers.
The 369 core types which both ‘prefer’ and ‘repress’ the same centre, also become more understandeable with a partial-centre opposition model; it being problematic to assume a type overuses a centre it doesn’t have. It might be most feasible to assume that there would be an opposition between the ‘moving’ level, and the highest level – suggesting that someone simply is ‘running in a groove’ that prevents them using their fullest potential there. Note that Gurdjieff doesn’t just posit that there are higher parts of centres but also additional to this also higher centres e.g. the “higher emotional” and “higher mental” centres; if everyone can use the mechanical levels of the centres, having a total of 9 potential oppositional ‘points’ would require also bringing the higher centres into it, making these the points in opposition to the core triangle.


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