Lecture 24 — Hydrogens, Sex, and Centres

by P D Ouspensky

Contents List:

Energy Supply
Abuse of Sex
Centre of Gravity
The Third Force in Digestion
Hydrogens and Self-Development
Speeds of Centres
Higher Centres
Energy and Centres

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Energy Supply

A hydrogen means a certain matter. Each centre is adapted to work with a certain hydrogen. One centre needs a lower, another a higher, hydrogen. If it uses a wrong hydrogen, it produces wrong work in one sense or another, depending on which hydrogen is used and how it is used.

Centres usually try to steal better energy, but sometimes they try to be lazy and work on worse energy. Negative emotion can distract energy from the right places and use it in wrong places. As long as one cannot control negative emotions, one cannot control anything else. There is only one way of saving energy but there are many ways of wasting it.


In general, mi 12 refers to the emotional centre, sol 12 to the instinctive centre, and si 12 to the sex centre.

Si 12 is the hydrogen which represents the final product of the transformation of food in the human organism. It is the matter with which sex works and which sex manufactures. It is 'seed' or 'fruit'.

Si 12 can pass into do of the next octave with the help of an 'additional shock'. But this shock can be of a dual nature and different octaves can begin, one outside the organism which has produced si 12 and the other inside the organism itself. The union of male and female si 12 and all that accompanies it constitutes the 'shock' of the first kind, and the new octave begun with its help develops independently as a new organism or a new life.

This is the normal and natural way to use the energy of si 12. But there is another possibility — that is, of creating a new life within the actual organism in which the si 12 has been manufactured but without the union of male and female. A new octave then develops within the organism itself, not outside it. This is the birth of the 'astral body'. You must understand that the 'astral body' is born of the same matter as the physical body, only the process is different. All the cells of the physical body are, so to speak, permeated by emanations of the matter si 12. When they have become sufficiently saturated, si 12 begins to crystallise. The crystallisation of this matter constitutes the formation of the 'astral body'. This is the process that alchemy calls the transmutation of the 'coarse' into the 'fine' or the transformation of base metals into gold.

Formation of the 'astral body' is possible only in a healthy organism which functions normally. For certain types of people, sexual abstinence is necessary for transmutation to begin. For others, abstinence is not at all necessary, and for yet others abstinence comes by itself when transmutation begins. In this third case, transmutation takes all the available sexual energy.

Sexual abstinence can be useful if the individual knows what to do with the energy which is saved thereby; otherwise there is no benefit. Sexual abstinence is useful only if there is abstinence in all centres. There can be nothing worse than abstinence in one centre and full liberty of imagination in the others. Only a person who is completely normal as regards sex has any chance in the work of the system. Modern education and modern life create an enormous number of sexual psychopaths. In general, there are only two correct ways of expending sexual energy — normal sexual life and transmutation.

If the lower storey of man's body is taken as one whole, then sex can be regarded as the neutralising part of the moving centre. It ought to work with hydrogen si 12, but it very rarely works with its proper hydrogen. Abnormalities in the working of the sex centre require special study.

It must first be noted that normally in the sex centre, as in the higher emotional and higher thinking centres, there is no negative side. In all the other centres — the thinking, the emotional, the moving, and the instinctive — there are, so to speak, two halves. In the thinking centre, these are positive and negative, affirmation and negation, or 'yes' and 'no'. In the moving and instinctive centre, there are pleasant and unpleasant sensations. There is no such division in the sex centre. There are no positive and negative sides in it. There is either a pleasant feeling or sensation, or there is nothing, i.e. absence of any sensation, complete indifference. But in consequence of the wrong work of centres, it often happens that the sex centre unites with the negative part of the emotional centre or with the negative part of the instinctive centre. Stimulation of the sex centre then gives rise to unpleasant feelings and sensations.

People who experience unpleasant feelings and sensations evoked through ideas and imagination connected with sex are inclined to view them as a great virtue, but in actual fact it is simply disease and an abuse of sex. Everything connected with sex should be either pleasant or indifferent. Unpleasant feelings and emotions all come from the emotional centre or the instinctive centre.

Abuse of Sex

It is also necessary to remember that the sex centre works with H12. This makes it stronger and quicker than all the other centres. Sex, in fact, governs all the other centres.

In ordinary circumstances, when man has neither consciousness nor will, only buffers hold the sex centre in submission. But buffers cannot destroy its energy, which passes over to other centres and expresses itself through them. In other words, the other centres rob the sex centre of the energy which it does not use itself. The energy of the sex centre in the work of the thinking, emotional, and moving centres can be recognised by a particular fervour or vehemence which are uncalled for in the circumstances of the case.

When making use of sex energy, the thinking centre does not simply occupy itself with philosophy, science, or politics: it is always fighting something, disputing, criticising, creating new subjective theories. The emotional centre preaches Chritianity, Islam, abstinence, ascetism, the fear and horrors of sin, hell, the torment of sinners, eternal fire; or, on the other hand, it works up revolutions, robs, burns, kills, again with the same energy. The moving centre occupies itself with sport, creates records, climbs mountains, jumps, fences, wrestles, fights, and so on. In all these instances, there is always a certain particular vehemence and the activity in question is characterised by its uselessness. The thinking, emotional and moving centres can never create anything useful with the energy of the sex centre. This is an example of the 'abuse of sex'.

Another aspect is that when the energy of the sex centre is plundered by other centres and spent on useless work, it has nothing left for itself and has to steal the much lower and coarser energy of other centres. Yet the sex centre is very important for general activity and particularly for the inner growth of the organism. Working with H12, it can receive a very fine food of impressions, such as none of the ordinary centres can receive. The fine food of impressions is very important for the manufacture of the higher 'hydrogens'. But when the sex centre works with energy that is not its own, with H48 and H24, its impressions become much coarser and it cannot play its proper rôle in the organism.

At the same time, union of the sex centre with the thinking centre creates far too great an imagination on the subject of sex and a tendency to be satisfied with this imagination. Use of sex energy by the emotional centre creates either sentimentality or, on the contrary, jealousy and cruelty.

Centre of Gravity

It is impossible for the ordinary person to struggle against abuse of sex. Right work on oneself begins with the creation of a permanent centre of gravity. When this has been created, everything else begins to be disposed and distributed in subordination to it. Only a man's attitude to the work of the system, to school, his valuation of the work, and his realisation of the mechanicalness and aimlessness of everything else can create in him a permanent centre of gravity.

The rôle of the sex centre in creating a general equilibrium and a permanent centre of gravity can be very significant. If it uses its own energy, the sex centre stands on a level with the higher emotional centre and all the other centres are subordinate to it. It would therefore be a great thing if it worked with its own energy. This alone would indicate a comparatively very high level of being in which all other centres could work correctly in their places and with their own energies.

At present, we can work only on mi 12. We have too little of si 12, and sol 12 passes higher to a very small amount of H6 which, though it is so small, keeps the higher centres alive.

The Third Force in Digestion

All the stages of digestion are continually going on in the organism. Suppose one is not actually eating at a given moment, but the third and fourth triads of the digestive process are in action. This means that a certain amount of the third force is already there for, if it were not, perhaps things in the Food Diagram which look as if they precede that stage, would not happen. It is necessary to understand that not only carbons but also nitrogens must be there.

We cannot determine the moment when the Food Diagram begins. It begins when one is born or soon after, and then it goes on throughout life. For example, it is well known in ordinary physiology that certain processes in the mouth happen in the way they do because certain other processes in the stomach happen in a certain way. It is all connected and what may look like result is very often the cause.

Hydrogens and Self-Development

The Table of Hydrogens shows from which layer of hydrogens each matter comes. With the help of this table you can see that all the hydrogens in our body, what we eat, what we drink, the air we inhale, all our impressions, and many other things all come from different layers of matter in the Ray of Creation. In this way we can see the relation of every action, every thought, every function to a certain part of the Universe governed by its own laws. We think that it is all on Earth, but although things happen on Earth, their origin is not on Earth — it may be above or below the Earth. And this is what the Table of Hydrogens shows.

Energies or matters existing in the outside world can be understood or assimilated by man only in so far as he already has corresponding hydrogens in himself. Thus in order to become receptive to the higher matters or influences, he has to produce in himself sufficient corresponding hydrogens to set his higher centres working.

From this point of view, self-study becomes the study of the working of different energies in oneself, of their present wastage in useless and harmful functions, and of their possible accumulation for the purpose of self-development.

Speeds of Centres

The study of hydrogens and their relation to one another also helps us to understand centres and their different speeds. Intellectual centre works with H48, moving and instinctive centres with H24. Emotional centre should work with H12, but it never receives the right fuel and never works as it should. If we could make it work faster, it would make a great difference to our perceptions and other faculties.

Higher Centres

There are three different theories about higher centres. One is that they function and that we could not live without their functioning, but that they are not connected with ordinary centres because of the enormous difference of speed; that it is necessary to eliminate from the ordinary centres all the wrong functions and bring them to the highest possible speed; and that this can happen only when we pass to another level of consciousness.

The second explanation is that higher centres are latent; that they are fully developed, but do not work as they should.

The third explanation is that they do not work because there is no fuel for them and that the hydrogens which can serve as fuel for them can be produced only in another state of consciousness. They are in a state of sleep, but when we produce enough material for them, they will awaken.

All these explanations are right, and they all come to the same thing. We have to become conscious and control our lower centres in order to bring them to their best possible state. Then there will be no difficulty in making contact with higher centres because, even in our present state, very occasionally, very rarely, we have glimpses of higher states — at least some people have. So the important thing for us to realise is that higher centres will not keep us waiting when we awaken. The thing is to awaken and pass to another level of consciousness; then higher emotional and, later, higher mental centre, will respond.

If higher centres were to start working in us as we are now, we should be in a bad way. We should just be conscious machines without possibility of becoming anything else, for will can be created only by effort. We are such as we are in order to become different. We are very unsatisfactory but, because of that, we can become stronger and more conscious. If we were connected with higher centres in our present state, we should go mad. Such a development would be a great danger as long as we can have negative emotions. For this reason there are automatic brakes in the machine making the connection impossible. First, we must prepare lower centres and change the state of our consciousness.

Higher centres have characteristics which may be regarded as extraordinary. For instance, what is called magic may be the manifestation of the laws of a higher plane on a lower plane. If higher emotional centre were to manifest on a lower level, it would be a miracle.

In our state, the intellectual and the emotional centres are sharply divided, but in higher centres this difference disappears. Then the higher emotional centre does not use words, for words are too clumsy and their meaning changes even in one generation; a thousand years produces a complete change of meaning.

The higher mental centre is still quicker and does not use even allegorical forms, as higher emotional centre does. We can say that it uses symbolical forms which give the possibility of long-term thought. It is all in us: but we cannot use it because we work with a very slow machine.

Higher centres do not reach us — the gap is too great between them and ordinary centres. The difference in speed is so enormous that ordinary centres do not hear higher centres. They have many important functions about which we do not know, but we cannot use them as minds: they are too quick and we are too sleepy. So if we accidentally get a connection with higher mental centre, it simply leaves a blank.

In higher centres there are no positive and negative parts, and there is no division between intellectual and emotional. Higher emotional centre is only called 'emotional'. On higher levels of consciousness, what is emotional is also intellectual and what is intellectual is emotional. Work of higher centres is very different from work of ordinary centres. We can sometimes observe this work and the different taste of it in moments of self-consciousness, when we become temporarily connected with higher emotional centre.


In ancient Mysteries and medieval magic, as well as today, drugs were used to put people in touch with higher centres. But this system objects to drugs because they work mainly by stupefying lower centres and thus occasionally put us in touch with higher centres. That would be of no use to us because we can remember only as much as we are conscious of. Since we have no higher consciousness, connection with higher centres will result only in dreams or in unconsciousness.

The trance states sometimes described in books constitute a very dangerous road. Bringing oneself into a trance is connected with the creation of imagination in higher emotional centre, and this is a blind alley. If you are there you cannot get out and cannot get further. Our idea is to control imagination. If, instead, you contrive to transform it into imagination in higher emotional centre, you may get bliss and happiness: but this, after all, is only sleep on a higher level. Real development must proceed along two lines: development of consciousness and development of centres.

Furthermore, such experiments are usually disappointing because as a rule people use up in the first experiment all the material they have for consciousness. The same thing can be said of all stupefying, mechanical, self-hypnotising methods; they give the same results as drugs — they put ordinary senses to sleep but cannot increase consciousness. But when consciousness is developed, higher centres will present no difficulty. Higher emotional centre is supposed to work in the third state of consciousness and higher mental in the fourth.


Let us take telepathy as an example. For Men 1, 2, and 3, telepathy does not exist at all; it is imagination. But men of a much higher development control forces which can produce so-called telepathy, because it is a function of the higher emotional centre. If one can, even momentarily, control higher emotional centre, one can produce telepathic effects. But ordinary mind and ordinary emotions cannot do it.

In ordinary books on theosophy one finds the idea that many things are hidden because they are dangerous. But in reality the danger is not in ideas but in the distortion of ideas. People may become dangerous if they hear something and begin to apply it in the wrong sense. One could use the forces of higher centres to strengthen one's negative side.

It is necessary to develop consciousness, and this will bring with it the possibility of using better organs of perception and cognition. Without higher centres we cannot do much, and this is why a philosophical approach is not much use by itself. It can invent theories, and then it stops. It does not develop the higher centres which alone can understand the ideas fully.

Consciousness is developed by self-remembering.

Energy and Centres

Take the human machine from the point of view of centres and imagine that energy created in the organism is kept in a certain big accumulator which is connected with two small accumulators placed near each centre.

Suppose man begins to think and uses the energy of the first of the small accumulators of the intellectual centre. The energy in the accumulator gets lower and lower, and when it is at its lowest, he gets tired. Then he makes an effort, or has a short rest, or yawns, and becomes connected with the second small accumulator. It is very interesting that yawning is a special help provided by nature for passing from one accumulator to another.

He goes on thinking and drawing energy from the second accumulator, is again tired, yawns, or has a cup of coffee, and becomes again connected with the first small accumulator. But that accumulator may be only half filled and is quickly exhausted. He becomes connected once more with the second which is only a quarter filled, and so it goes on until a time may come when both accumulators are empty.

If at that moment a man makes a special effort of the right kind, he may become connected directly with the big accumulator. This is one explanation of miracles, for he will then have an enormous supply of energy. But this needs a very great effort — not an ordinary effort. If he exhausts the big accumulator he dies; but generally he falls asleep or becomes unconscious long before that, so there is no danger. In ordinary life this connection with the big accumulator sometimes happens in extraordinary circumstances — such as moments of extreme danger.

That is why there is this system of small accumulators. If one could be easily connected with the big accumulator one might, for example, never stop being angry for a week, and then one would die. So generally one does not become connected with the big accumulator until one has control over negative emotions. Emotions are stronger than other functions, so if one were to get into a negative emotion and had unlimited energy, it would be too dangerous.

For ordinary life, sufficient energy can be stored in the small accumulators. But sometimes, people who are habitually tired use only half the accumulator and already say that they are too exhausted and cannot do anything. In actual fact, so long as there is anything at all in the small accumulators we have no right to be tired. That is why physical efforts are useful. We are afraid of being tired. Of course, we could have much more energy than we have if we did not waste it on negative emotions and other useless things.


The more efforts you make, the more energy you can get. Without efforts you cannot get energy. Even if it is in you, it may be in the wrong place. Think simply that you have much energy in you that you never use, and that you must make more efforts to use it.

Do not think about the big accumulator; think about yourself. Sometimes you must begin with small efforts. If you do not make small efforts you will never be able to make big efforts. It is quite right that energy is necessary, but the energy is in us. We have enough energy, at least in the beginning, and if we use it for work it is not lost but comes back. If you lose energy on negative emotions or on mechanical actions or mechanical thinking, then it is lost. But if you use energy for struggling against mechanicalness, you get it back. That is how energy is accumulated.

By training, one can do an enormous amount of work; but if a man without training starts doing the same work he will use too much energy on quite simple things and will use his accumulators in a wrong way. If you want to think scientifically you must realise that training, taken in an ordinary sense, prepares accumulators for working rightly. Actually, although I put only two accumulators near each centre, there are a great many more. Each centre is surrounded by accumulators.

Accumulators are refilled constantly. The large accumulator is refilled during sleep with the energy derived from the three kinds of food. All energies are kept in the big accumulator, either mixed or in a higher form. When a demand comes, a corresponding hydrogen is sent. If energy is produced it is stored in the big accumulator. If more is produced than is necessary for life, it can be stored in many places. It is important to understand that there is a big store of energy in the big accumulator, and much of it we never use — it remains dead capital. Once we know how to connect with the big accumulator, we can produce quite different results.


All work is concentrated on consciousness. In work on centres we only try to stop definitely wrong work. There are no exercises to increase the work of centres: all the work is on consciousness. When consciousness is increased, centres will adapt. But wrong work of centres must be stopped, for if we remained abnormal and became conscious, our centres would go mad — they would not be able to stand it. But it cannot happen. We cannot become conscious unconsciously.

People often ask: What does one gain by becoming conscious? This is because they cannot know what the result of consciousness is. When we are conscious we become connected with higher centres and then the whole picture changes.