The Heart, the Intellectual Part of the Emotional Center or

the King of Hearts, and the Four Lower Centres

Gurdjieff (1866-1949) a Greek-Armenian spiritual teacher, who brought a spiritual teaching to the West known as The Work or The Fourth Way, explained that man has four different brains or centers, the emotional, intellectual, moving and instinctive brain. The emotional brain is a function through which we experience emotions related to people and impressions. The intellectual centre is a function that manifests as thought and reason. The moving centre is a function that enables one to move in one`s environment and design things. The instinctive centre takes care of the functioning of the human body, such as heart beat, growth of the body, activity of the senses, distribution of energy, and so on. It is the only centre that is fully developed when one is born, the other three centers have to be educated.

Each centre is further divided in three parts; a mechanical part, an emotional part and an intellectual part. One can see which part is functioning by looking at the level of one`s attention. The mechanical part functions automatically without the need of paying attention to what it is doing. It can also be seen as the memory bank of the centre. Once one has learned a new language, one doesn’t have to pay attention anymore to the meaning of the words, they come out automatically. Once one has learned how to ride a bicycle, one doesn’t need to pay attention to staying balanced, and one can talk with a friend while riding it. The emotional part functions with attention, but it doesn’t take an effort on our part to sustain this attention. The attention is sustained by the interest in the subject. Examples are playing video games or enjoyment in playing a sport. The intellectual part also functions with attention but it requires an effort to sustain this attention. Examples are studying for an exam, learning to drive a car or creating a piece of art.


Picture cards from the common deck of cards

The four centres are represented in the four different suites of the common deck of playing cards. Clubs represent the instinctive center, spades represents the moving center, diamonds stands for the intellectual center and -hearts for the emotional center. The parts of centers are symbolized by the different court cards. The kings symbolize the intellectual parts of centers, the queens refer to the emotional parts, and the jacks represent the mechanical parts. The King of Hearts is the gateway to the state of presence and is referred to as the heart by most esoteric traditions.

What is the best thing? The heart which is always in remembrance of God. -- Abul al-Hassan (11th c. Persian Sufi master)
By heart I do not mean the piece of flesh situated in the left of our bodies, but that which uses all the other faculties as its instruments and servants. -- Al-Ghazali (11th c. Persian Sufi mystic)
The Heart is not a piece of flesh, the place where one is aware, is the Heart. -- Wang Yangming (16th c. Chinese philosopher)
The 'heart' does not mean mere feeling, but something much deeper — the organ which knows God. -- Father Seraphim, Philokalia (Greek Orthodox Christian text)

God refers to the God within, one`s Higher Self. The heart is the organ that knows the Higher Self and the best thing is the heart that is always remembering the Higher Self.

Madonna and child by Leonardo Da vinci、The Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg

Isis suckling Horus, Egyptian Museum, Cairo.
My heart is a beautiful Mary with a Jesus in the womb. -- Rumi (13th c. Sufi mystic and poet)
The Messiah, son of Mary… was His word that He cast into Mary. -- Koran
That baby is born in the heart and is reared and grows there. The heart like a mother, gives birth, suckles, and rears child of the heart. The child of the heart is taught inner wisdom. -- Al-Jilani (12th c. Sufi)


The soul still in pursuit of prayer is like a woman in the pains of childbirth; but the soul that has attained prayer is like a woman who has given birth and is full of joy on account of her child. -- Ilias the Presbyter, Philokalia (Greek Orthodox Christian text)

Dogu with a heart-shaped face, Jomon period (10.000-1000 BC)

African mask, the Musée Barbier-Mueller, Geneva

All changes of spiritual consciousness depend upon the heart. -- The Secret of the Golden Flower (Taoist text)
The heart has a secret prescription. The hidden and wonderful spell gives eternal life. -- Journey to the West (one of the four great Chinese classical novels)


One cannot be aware of oneself for fifteen minutes without a very strong emotional element. You must produce something that makes you emotional; you cannot do it without the help of the emotional center. -- The Fourth Way, Ouspensky (20th c, spiritual teacher)
In those cases where the work of the emotional center reaches the intensity and speed of existence which is given by hydrogen 12 (a fine emotional energy), a temporary connection with the higher emotional center takes place and man experiences new emotions, new impressions hitherto entirely unknown to him, for the description of which he has neither words nor expressions.

To reach a prolonged state of presence, a man must learn to access and use the emotional energy of the king of hearts. It is the only part in a man that is interested in experiencing presence rather that just talking about being present. The energy of Divine presence is refined and subtle, and implies an emotional awareness that can only come from the king of hearts. Usually, a child`s education focuses on the intellectual and moving center, and a little on the instinctive center. The emotional center, especially the king of hearts is left to itself.

When experiencing a deeper state of presence, in which a connection is made with the higher emotional center, simple things that one normally glances over, become deeply meaningful. Impressions penetrate one more deeply and one begins to see deeper meaning in everything.

One walks on the street and receives an impression of a beggar—one day it will be just a vague face which one takes as part of the scenery and which has no more significance for one than an old piece of newspaper. Another day one may actually see the man, see all he has been through, see what he is, see all that he can expect to become. Such a perception may suddenly connect with many pictures, memories and experiences, and give a flash of new understanding. It need not be a beggar. The same thing can happen through the simplest scene or object. The impression may be the same that one receives every day, but one day it is digested, that is, transformed into higher hydrogen. -- Rodney Collin, (20th c. Fourth Way spiritual teacher)

Two swans making a heart

In the faces of men and women I see God and in my own face in the glass. I find letters from God dropped in the street. -- Walt Whitman (19th c. American poet)


The image above usually stimulates the jack of hearts, through which one experiences emotions that one expresses like: oh, how adorable! If the King of hearts is active, one will experience a beauty that touches one more deeply. The higher emotional center (a function of the Higher Self) will see an even deeper meaning connected to the state of presence. One begins to see that the whole creation, the universe, nature, animals and man itself, all have an inner meaning related to the effort to be present and the state of presence. This activates the heart even more, helping one to be more present.

Truth is everywhere you turn. If you can let go of it with your mind and surround it with your heart,
it will live inside you forever. -- Lao Tzu

Images often express ideas better than words.

The secret repository is profound and mysterious, and difficult to convey in writing. Thus we borrow pictures to point to what is to be realized. -- Kukai (9th c. Founder of Japanese Esoteric Buddhism)

a caterpillar

a pupa or chrysalis



A caterpillar is a symbol for the lower self. The transformation of a caterpillar into a chrysalis symbolizes making the effort of being present. The chrysalis represents the body of spiritual effort to reach this state.





The butterfly is a symbol for the Higher Self or the state of presence. It has four wings.

These four are one in God and the one is four. But we cannot grasp the simplicity of God. While we strive to understand that he is as one, he appears to us as fourfold. -- Bernard of Clairvaux (12th c. French abbot)
This immortal fourfold breath, is hidden in the original cavity of the spirit, behind the spot between the eyes. -- Chao Pi Chen (20th c. Taoist Master)

the monarch butterfly

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