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Essence and Personality



                Center of Gravity
                Other Aspects of Essence


        The Relationship of Essence and Personality

        The Path of Development

The ideas discussed here are ancient (this is the "map of pre-sand Egypt" G. mentioned). It seems indisputable, to those who have verified some of the truths and natures of essence, that there was a certain area of ancient knowledge that was far superior to our modern knowledge. This was in the area of what we today call psychology, although the western science of psychology is so crude that it is considered a "soft" science. Ancient psychology, however, should not be considered "objective science" in the way western science uses those words today, because it necessarily requires a high degree of "art" or intuition (use of the intellectual part of the emotional center, to get technical.) Whereas our "Western" knowledge has been acquired experimentally, ancient knowledge was acquired experientially. Part of our work is to connect experimental knowledge with experiential knowledge.


When first hearing of the laws of essence to be discussed here, there is a lamentable automatism in our formatory apparatus that ejaculates something like "But that is not all there is to it!" "But it is much more complicated than that!" and so on, whenever confronted with the law-conformableness of human psychology. Of course whatever law is being discussed is not "all there is to it". I once knew a person who complained that the idea of seven types was "too simplistic". I wonder what she thought of the idea of two sexes?

The point being, a handful of elementary laws combine to produce the enormously varied, but nonetheless classifiable, human essences. Duality produces sex, the law of seven produces type, the law of three, center of gravity. This all applies to physical as well as psychological makeup. That is what essence is: our pre-determined, genetic program.

Aspects of Essence


Type (also called "essence type" or "body type") can be of one of seven types, or a combination of those types. But the types only combine in certain combinations, not in any which way. The order of combination is illustrated by the internal circulation or web-figure of the enneagram. The inner circulation of the enneagram may be seen as a continuum (like the line of sex discussed below), and we are born somewhere on that line.

Center of Gravity

Center of gravity can be described in various ways. Strictly speaking, we are centered in one of the four centers which are fully functioning at birth: the intellectual, emotional, moving, or instinctive. This is sometimes generalized as being a "number 3", "number 2", or "number 1", where moving and instinctive centers of gravity are both described as "number 1". (The relative number has no significance here—it is only used to distinguish the three groups, or "three stories of the human factory".) Much further distinction of center of gravity is possible, where each center is further divided into three or four, and each of those are further divided into three or four. One may have, for example, a center of gravity in the emotional part of the intellectual part of the moving center.


Examples of the twoness of human essence include the positive-negative and active-passive polarities of type, and the male-female dichotomy of sex.

Sex is dual but it is not an either-or proposition. It is better viewed as a continuum, where a person is born somewhere along the line. Way to one side and we have a very masculine man, way to the other, a very feminine woman. More towards the middle we get varied mixtures, right near the middle we get near-equal combinations.

Other Aspects of Essence

There are other aspects of essence, such as chief feature, "alchemy", and chief difficulty, that are not discussed here. In general, to see essence qualities to some degree you have to see yourself to some degree. The way to see essence is through School. I'm sorry, but you won't get far without it.

It is important to understand the purpose of this knowledge of essence—it helps us to "know thyself". We are strongly determined by our type, center of gravity, and other features of our essence. They determine to a large extent our interests, strengths, and weaknesses.

It is also important to understand the effect that knowledge of essence can have on us. If this knowledge penetrates us, that is if it is received properly and understood (see Knowledge and Being for the fourth way definition of understanding), it must lead toward greater humility and a non-judgmental attitude toward others. Because we begin to see that much of what we picture as our strengths were simply given to us, and much of what we picture as others' weaknesses were simply given to them. And our strengths often appear as weaknesses, or faults, to them. And our achievements, or anyone's achievements, are quite different than we imagine. Of course, false personality (see below) can take this information and use it to inflate the ego and judge others, but false personality can and does do that with any knowledge. If, with knowledge of essence, you find yourself judging others based on knowledge of their essence, you can be sure your aim has been hijacked.

So when that "I" says "That's too simplistic!", understand that things are necessarily stated one at a time, and that they are introduced at one level and then developed, and much else must be understood before new knowledge can find its proper place.

That, is essence, in addition to which we may develop capacities that we were not born with. And, conversely, we may educate and direct natural dispositions. This leads us to the discussion of personality.


In one way, personality is more easily discussed: there is false personality and there is true personality. On the other hand, there are no limitations, or pre-imposed structures, on the forms that personalities take. A personality may be sublime, another downright criminal, another moronic, another clever, one stubborn, one insightful, and so on. And furthermore, all such personalities can be in the same person. I am not talking about special cases like "The Three Faces of Eve" or other documented cases of abnormal psychology. This is about the psychology of us, supposedly normal human beings, and we must see:

  1. the difference between essence and personality in ourselves
  2. that the personality we see in us is false personality and that it has many parts, many "I"s
  3. a way to develop a true personality based on the understanding of our essence and our aim in light of self-awareness

Personality is acquired during life. It is learned, sometimes deliberately, but often through imitation. It includes our postures and movements, our attitudes, thoughts, feelings, and expressions. And all this is false personality. True personality is a result of work on oneself in light of a conscious teaching and cannot be otherwise. True personality can gradually take the place of false personality. True personality is put in place of false personality, because we cannot abandon personality—it is required to protect and develop essence, but false personality over-protects, it suffocates and retards essence. True personality is something we design to both protect and promote our essence.

The Relationship of Essence and Personality

As we are, personality provides an external covering over our essence. Others see our personality, not our essence. In a sense, this is as it should be: personality protects essence like the shell of a walnut protects its kernel. Our psychology has become abnormal though, because our shell has grown too hard, too restrictive. The essence it was meant to protect becomes increasingly suffocated, under-nourished, and is in danger of dying altogether.

But for many people, including people who have active magnetic centers—and certainly those who genuinely knock on the door of the fourth way—essence is not dead. It will be the case, though, that essence is lagging behind in its possibilities. In a properly conducted School atmosphere however, our essence can slowly emerge, and so begin to develop more quickly.

Ultimately, we ourselves have to provide the proper shell to protect essence and yet allow it to grow at our own pace and in our own directions. The means of doing this is called "true personality". It is our acquired knowledge deliberately applied to protect and feed essence, and to grow in partnership with essence. Although it is not identical, this has a lot in common with the idea of the harmonious growth of knowledge and being producing understanding.

It can be very difficult—that is, painful—to see the extent to which we are controlled by our essence and false personality. This is the main reason the fourth way will never be popular. It may be more accurate to say that work on the fourth way will never be popular. Some imaginary ideas calling themselves the fourth way may well one day become popular, but that would have as much to do with the work of the fourth way as false personality has to do with who we really are. There is a great deal about ourselves that we will never see without working with others in an organization based on the fourth way, one directed by consciousness ("C influence"). The difficulty of such group work—given a real fourth way organization—is directly related to our reluctance to see the truth about ourself.

The Path of Development

False Personality->True Personality->Essence->Individuality

This work might be summed up by something like "becoming who we really are in potential". We begin working (because of something deep within us) as almost nothing but false personality. The various tools of the work are designed to create in us a true personality. This true personality not only allows essence to grow, it feeds essence deliberately, permitting a right growth. The result of the right growth of essence is our individuality.

We can see different relationships of essence and personality, different ratios, in different people. In an "educated" Westerner, for example, personality prevails over essence. An isolated rainforest tribe member typically has a much more developed essence but little development of personality.

Our essence relates directly to another's essence if personality is not threatened, and we find each other charming. The energy of essence is literally finer than that of personality, and it is a delight to experience it. Children are another example of essence predominating over personality. We may have all witnessed the growth of children in which personality begins to predominate, say from the age of 7 and on, and we cannot help but feel that something is being lost. Strictly speaking, it is not being lost, at least not yet, but rather becoming covered by a protective coating, which is personality.

This over-layering of personality on essence is often likened to clothing protecting our body, and we meet in many teachings with apparently strange ideas about the necessity of "removing our clothes" and to "become like little children". This, for us, is a necessary first stage of growth, but must be done carefully. Yes, it is necessary to remove these old clothes, this personality, this "old Adam", but it is also necessary for us to already have the makings of a new protection for our essence—protection from the often harsh and potentially damaging influences of life in the human world. This new covering, or filter, is our true personality.

And when he sowed, some seeds fell by the way side, and the fowls came and devoured them up:
Some fell upon stony places, where they had not much earth: and forthwith they sprung up, because they had no deepness of earth:
And when the sun was up, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away.
And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprung up, and choked them:
But other fell into good ground, and brought forth fruit, some an hundredfold, some sixtyfold, some thirtyfold.
Who hath ears to hear, let him hear.

Gospel of Matthew

The analogy of the seed states that the outer husk is personality, which protects the kernel, or essence, allowing it to begin to grow. But too restrictive a husk, and the seed perishes. Too unprotective, it perishes as well. With a proper shell, or true personality, the seed is both protected and nourished and, when the time is right, and the environment is right, the husk falls away to allow the new growth, or individuality, to emerge.

What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. And what you sow is not the body which is to be, but a bare kernel, perhaps of wheat or of some other grain. But God gives it a body as he has chosen, and to each kind of seed its own body.

Paul of Tarsus, First Letter to the School at Corinth (Corinthians 1)

Magnetic Center

That we are able to begin the work of the fourth way at all is due to a part of our personality—it is our "magnetic center". Although acquired in personality, it seems to be the result of a deeper "call" in us, some certainty or intimation within us of a higher reality that is accessible but for some reason not normally accessed. In any case, we engage in seeking, with the obvious intent of eventually finding. But there are many variables, among which I might mention the relative strength of the urge to find, the willingness to overcome obstacles including self-deception and societal discouragement, and the determination to hold onto something once gained and to build from there.

The influences that shape our personality are of three types. They are Accidental influences (called "influence A"), or they are Conscious influences, from conscious mind (called "influence C"), or they are some admixture of Both (called "influence B").

Magnetic center grows and, most importantly, magnetic center improves by a process of discrimination. That is, by discriminating in the first place between A and B influences—and pursuing, "collecting", B influences—magnetic center increases its relative mass and importance in one's life. But this is not enough. It is necessary to improve on our ability to discriminate the relative quality of the different influences B—if we do not, we become like one of those people that are only too common these days, full of ideas about every latest new-age fad but hardly distinguishing between their relative value, and adopting the next one to come along with the same vehemence and certainty each one was previously adopted. This road leads nowhere.

It is necessary to "separate the coarse from the fine", to gain in discrimination as a result of experience, and to use that discrimination to move in the direction indicated by it. There is no doubt that this takes a lot of hard self-questioning (what have I really gained?, what do I really know?, and so on) and it also requires a certain self-respect for the remembrance of one's own higher understandings at times when we don't have that same higher level of understanding.

So magnetic center becomes a sort of bridge between false personality and true personality. It becomes a bridge, that is, when the other "shore" is found, that shore being school work. Work based on real knowledge, knowledge that is required for the development of true personality.

Such knowledge is chiefly psychological in nature, but it is aided by the study of cosmological ideas. Psychological and cosmological ideas must become more similar as one moves toward unity and away from multiplicity, and the separate but related study of each is a means of providing material to demonstrate and ultimately verify this. Psychological work requires working directly with others (sooner or later, personally, in physical proximity, not virtually through the web or telephone). Cosmological knowledge comes from others, although not necessarily by personal contact.

The knowledge we speak of is principles of classification and action. Specific facts must be incorporated by the individual. Such facts may be of various types, whether psychological or cosmological, religious or scientific. System ideas are the tools by which we are able to relate apparently unrelated and even contradictory ideas. This body of working knowledge, by which we increasingly relate to the work and then the world, is true personality. Like all personality, it is learned and comes from outside of us but, unlike false personality, it is deliberately constructed by us in light of specific goals toward our aim.

True personality has a dual nature in that on the one hand it works to build up new principles and actions based on personal verifications of revealed teaching and, on the other hand, it works to break down and remove wrong ideas and habits acquired over the decades by false personality.

The gradual reduction of false personality and the establishment of true personality in its place allows for the growth of essence. Essence, which had been severely restricted due to the graceless growth of false personality like a crust around it, now begins to receive essential nourishment once again in the form of direct impressions of diverse and finer energies.

And from this point on arises the possibility of a true individuality. This individuality grows out of essence, and is expressed through it. Gurdjieff, for example, did not cease to be a Martial type, or to have a moving center of gravity, but he used these as tools to pursue his aims—as opposed to being a helpless prisoner of them, which we are until we can fully see our mechanicalities and successfully resist them and, ultimately, transcend them.

We start by struggling with false personality.

"[...] and when he has bound together the three principles within him, which may be compared to the higher, lower, and middle notes of the scale, and the intermediate intervals—when he has bound all these together, and is no longer many, but has become one entirely temperate and perfectly adjusted nature, then he proceeds to act [...]; always thinking and calling that which preserves and cooperates with the harmonious condition, just and good action, and the knowledge that presides over it, wisdom [...].
Plato, The Republic, Book IV

Note 1- On The Path of Development

The general triad of the path of personal development is:

1: destruction (of the old personality),
2: refinement (of magnetic center leading to a new personality), and
3: regeneration (of individuality based on essence).

I discuss this triad (really a triad of triads) in a theoretical manner in a later essay on The Six Processes.

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