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Psychology and Typology

The Gurdjieffian Psychology actually involves two completely different typologies, a three-fold one involving centers of psycho-physical functioning, and a nine-fold one based on the enneagram and the musical octave.  The first is easier to correlate with other systems of thought.  But it is the latter that has had the greatest influence, perhaps owing to its obscure meaning and ease by which it can be adopted into new age "psychobabble".  The enneagram system is probably the more profound of the two, and hence has been most open to misinterpretation. Here I will take a short comparitve look at the "centers" typology.

Gurdjieff divided people  into three personality types (matching his classification of spiritual paths): Man no 1, developed on the physical level; Man no 2, developed on the emotional level; and Man no 3, developed on the intellectual level.  These three types are summarised in the following table.

When compared with Jung's typology, or later developments from it like the Myer-Briggs system, this interpretation is quite simplistic.  It is however based on Gurdjieff's occult analysis of human nature.  According to him, man is a "three-brained"  being (c.f. Paul McLean) who possesses a total of seven centres (not to be confused with the Indian chakras) of psychic functioning.  These centres, which are better compared with the theosophical-occult concept of subtle bodies, are shown in the following table

(psycho- physiological centre)
Rudolph Steiner
(psychological faculty)
(psychological type)
Christopher Hills
Paul MacLean
(brain stratum)
Barbara Ann Brennan
(energy body)
Higher Intellectual
not specified?
Higher Emotional
spiritual feeling/
transmuted etheric 
Intellectual - Yogi (man no.3)
(higher mental faculties)
Emotional -
Monk (man no.2)
Moving - Fakir 
(man no.1)
not specified
not specified
not specified
not specified
Note: colour coding follows Christopher Hills (colour typology) and Barbara Ann Brennan
(predominant colour of energy body in question, more or less)

Of Gurdjieff's seven centres, the three most important are the Moving, the Emotional, and the Intellectual centres, to which clearly correspond Man no 1, no 2, and no 3 respectively.  The higher two centres are spiritual ones, and only  developed once one begins to work on oneself.  But in fact each of the seven centres can in turn be  divided into three parts: moving, emotional, and intellectual.

Gurdjieff thus differs from Steiner and Jung in that he sees each of the centres as actually independent, even possessing their own memory.   Ouspensky has Gurdjieff explaining:

 "Each centre has its own memory, its own associations, its own thinking.  As a matter of fact each centre consists of three parts:  the thinking, the emotional, and the moving.   But we know very little about this side of our nature...."
[P. D. Ouspensky, In Search of the Miraculous, p.109 (Harcourt Brace  Jovanovitch, New York and London, 1977)]

Here we have the idea of man as a compound being made up of many selves.

One could even correlate the various Gurdjieffian "centres" with the various "souls" and "subtle bodies" of the Kabbalists, Theosophists, and others; the thinking centre with the mental body,  the emotional centre with the emotional body, and so on.

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content by M.Alan Kazlev
page uploaded 5 June 1999, last modified 16 November 2003