Lecture 40 — 'Hydrogens' and Intelligence

by G I Gurdjieff

Contents List:

The Table of 'Hydrogens'
Vibration Frequency and Consciousness
Cosmic Level of Being
Classification By 'Hydrogens'
Impressions and Evolution
The Food 'Chain'

Return to:


See also:

Consciousness, Laws, and Influences
Man's Place in the World
Human Metabolism

The Table of 'Hydrogens'

So far, we have looked upon the 'table of hydrogens' as a table of vibrations and of the densities of matter which are inversely proportional to these frequencies. We must now realise that the frequency of vibrations and the density of matter express many other properties of matter.

For instance, we have till now said nothing about the intelligence or the consciousness of matter. But you must remember that there is nothing dead or inanimate in Nature. Everything is alive in its own way, and is intelligent and conscious in its own way. The frequency of vibrations of matter is an indicator of the intelligence and consciousness of the given matter. But this intelligence and consciousness is expressed in different ways on different levels of being — that is, on different scales. So you must understand once and for all that nothing is dead or inanimate in Nature; there are simply different degrees of animation and different scales.

Each cosmos is three-dimensional for itself. Each cosmos is an animate and intelligent being. Each cosmos is born, lives, and dies. In one cosmos it is impossible to understand all the laws of the Universe, but three cosmoses taken together include in themselves all the laws of the Universe; or two cosmoses, the one above and the other below, determine the cosmos which stands between them. By passing in his consciousness to the level of a higher cosmos, a man by this very fact passes to a level of a lower cosmos.

Vibration Frequency and Consciousness

The 'table of hydrogens', while serving to determine the density of matter and the speed of vibrations, serves at the same time to determine the degree of intelligence and consciousness because the degree of consciousness corresponds to the frequency of vibrations. This means that the denser the matter, the less conscious it is, the less intelligent; or the higher the frequency of its vibrations, the more conscious and the more intelligent the matter.

Really dead matter begins where vibrations cease. But under ordinary conditions of life on the Earth's surface, we have no concern with dead matter, and science cannot procure it. All the matter we know is living matter and is intelligent in its own way.

In determining the degree of density of matter, the 'table of hydrogens' also determines by this the degree of intelligence. This means that in making comparisons between the matters which occupy different places in the table, we determine not only their density but also their intelligence. Not only can we say how many times this or that 'hydrogen' is denser or lighter than another, but we can say how many times one 'hydrogen' is more intelligent than another.

The application of the 'table of hydrogens' for the determination of the different properties of things and of living creatures which consist of many 'hydrogens' is based on the principle that in each living creature and in each thing, there is one definite 'hydrogen' which is the centre of gravity; it is, so to speak, the 'average hydrogen' of all the 'hydrogens' constituting the given creature or thing. To find this 'average hydrogen' we will, to begin with, speak about living creatures.

Cosmic Level of Being

First of all it is necessary to know the level of being of the creature in question. The level of being is determined primarily by the number of storeys in the given machine. So far we have spoken only about man, and we have taken man as a three-storey structure. We cannot speak about animals and man at one and the same time because animals are radically different from man. The highest animals we know consist of two storeys and the lowest of only one storey.

A man consists of three storeys.
A sheep consists of two storeys.
A worm consists of only one storey.

At the same time the lower and middle storeys of a man are, so to speak, equivalent to the sheep, and the lower storey to the worm. So it can be said that a man consists of a man, a sheep, and a worm, and that a sheep consists of a sheep and a worm.

Man is a complex creature: the level of his being is determined by the level of being of the creatures of which he is composed. The sheep and the worm may play a bigger or a smaller part in man. Thus the worm plays the chief part in man number one; the sheep in man number two; and man in man number three. But these definitions are important only in individual cases. In a general sense, 'man' is determined by the centre of gravity of the middle storey.

The centre of gravity of the middle storey of man is 'hydrogen' 96. The intelligence of 'hydrogen' 96 determines the average intelligence of 'man', that is, the physical body of man. The centre of gravity of the 'astral body' will be 'hydrogen' 48. The centre of gravity of the third body will be 'hydrogen' 24, and the centre of gravity of the fourth body will be 'hydrogen' 12.

If you remember the diagram of the four bodies of man and the Lecture on Human Metabolism in which the 'average hydrogens' of the upper storey were shown, it will be easier for you to understand what I am now saying.

The centre of gravity of the upper storey is only one 'octave' higher than the centre of gravity of the middle storey, and the centre of gravity of the middle storey is one 'octave' higher that that of the lower storey. But to determine the level of being by the 'table of hydrogens' it is usual to take the middle storey. With this as a point of departure, it is possible to solve problems concerning relative levels of intelligence.

For example, let us suppose Jesus Christ to be man number eight. How many times is Jesus Christ more intelligent than a table?

A table has no storeys. According to the third scale of the 'table of hydrogens', it lies wholly between 'hydrogen' 1536 and 'hydrogen' 3072. Man number eight is 'hydrogen' 6. This is the centre of gravity of the middle storey of man number eight. If we are able to calculate how many times 'hydrogen' 6 is more intelligent than 'hydrogen' 1536 , we shall know how many times man number eight is more intelligent than a table.

But, in this connection, it must be remembered that 'intelligence' is determined not by the density of matter but by the frequency of vibrations. The frequency of vibrations, however, increases not by doubling as in the octaves of 'hydrogens', but in an entirely different progression which many times outnumbers the first. If you know the exact coefficient of this increase, you will be in a position to solve this problem. I only want to show you that, however strange it looks, the problem can be solved.

Classification By 'Hydrogens'

Partly in connection with what I have just said, it is imperative that you should understand the principles of the classification of living beings from the cosmic point of view, from the point of view of their cosmic existence. In ordinary science, classification is made according to external traits — bones, teeth, functions, mammals, vertebrates, rodents, and so on; in exact knowledge, classification is made according to cosmic traits. As a matter of fact there are exact traits, identical for everything living, which allows us to establish the class and the species of a given creature with the utmost exactitude, both in relation to other creatures and to its own place in the Universe.

These traits are the traits of being. The cosmic level of being of every living creature is determined by:

  1. what the creature eats;
  2. what he breathes;
  3. the medium in which it lives.
These are the three cosmic traits of being.

Take man, for instance. He feeds on 'hydrogen' 768, breathes 'hydrogen' 192, and lives in 'hydrogen' 192. There is no other being like him on our planet, although there are beings higher than he is.

Animals such as a dog can feed on 'hydrogen' 768 but they can also feed on lower 'hydrogens' approaching 1536, food of a kind impossible for man.

A bee feeds on a 'hydrogen' much higher that 768 — higher even than 384 — but it lives in a hive in an atmosphere where man could not live. From an outward point of view, a man is an animal. But he is an animal of a different order from all other animals.

Let us take another example — a flour worm. It feeds on flour, a 'hydrogen' far coarser than 'hydrogen' 768 because the worm can also live on rotten flour. Let us say that this is also 1536. It breathes 'hydrogen' 192 and lives in 'hydrogen' 1536

A fish feeds on 'hydrogen' 1536, lives in 'hydrogen' 384, and breathes 'hydrogen' 192.

A tree feeds on 'hydrogen' 1536, breathes partly 'hydronen' 192 and partly 'hydrogen' 96, and lives partly in 'hydrogen' 192 and partly in 'hydrogen' 3072 (soil).

If you try to continue these definitions you will see that this plan, so simple at the first glance, makes it possible to determine the most subtle distinctions between classes of living beings, especially if you bear in mind that 'hydrogens', taking them as we have by octaves, are very broad concepts. For example, we took it that a dog, a fish, and a flour worm alike feed on 'hydrogen' 1536, implying by this 'hydrogen' substances of organic origin which are not good for human food. Now, if we realise that these substances can in their turn be divided into definite classes, we shall see the possibility of very exact definitions. It is exactly the same with air and exactly the same with the medium.

These cosmic traits of being are immediately connected with the definition of intelligence according to the 'table of hydrogens'.


The intelligence of a matter is determined by the creature for whom it can serve as food. For example, a raw potato can serve as food for pigs and a baked potato as food for man. A baked potato is therefore more intelligent than a raw potato.

If these principles of classification and definition are understood in the right way, many things become clear and comprehensible. No living being can at will exchange its food or the air it breathes or the medium in which it lives. The cosmic order of each being determines its food as well as the air it breathes and the medium in which it lives.

When we talked about the octaves of food in the three-storey factory, we saw that all the finer 'hydrogens' needed for the working, the growth, and the evolution of the organism were prepared from three kinds of food, that is, from food in the strict meaning of the word — eatables and drink, from air which we breathe, and from impressions.

Now let us suppose that we could improve the quality of food and air: feed, let us say, on 'hydrogen' 384 instead of 768 and breathe 'hydrogen' 96 instead of 192. How much simpler the preparation of fine matters in the organism would be then! But the whole point is that this is impossible. The organism is adapted to transform precisely these coarse matters into fine matters, and if you give it fine matters instead of coarse matters, it will not be able to transform them and will very soon die.

Impressions and Evolution

Neither air nor food can be changed; but impressions, that is, the quality of the impressions possible to man, are not subject to any cosmic law. Man cannot improve his food, he cannot inprove the air; such improvement would actually be making things worse. For instance, 'hydrogen' 96 instead of 192 would be either very rarefied air or very hot incandescent gases which man cannot possibly breathe; fire is 'hydrogen' 96. It is exactly the same with food. 'Hydrogen' 384 is water. If man could improve his food, that is, make it finer, he would have to feed on water and breathe fire. It is clear that this is impossible.

But while it is not possible for man to improve his food and air, he can improve his impressions to a very high degree and in this way introduce fine 'hydrogens' into the organism. It is precisely on this that the possibility of evolution is based. A man is not at all obliged to feed on the dull impressions of H48: he can have H24, H12, H6, and even H3. This changes the whole picture; and a man who makes higher 'hydrogens' the food for the upper storey of his machine will certainly differ from one who feeds only on the lower 'hydrogens'.

The Food 'Chain'

There is still another system of classification which you also ought to understand. This is a classification in an altogether different ratio of octaves. The first classification by 'food', 'air', and 'medium' definitely refers to 'living beings' as we know them, that is to say as individuals, including plants. The other classification of which I will now speak leads us far beyond the limits of what we call 'living beings', both upwards, higher than living beings, and downweards, lower than living beings. It deals not with individuals but with classes in a very wide sense. Above all, this classification shows that in Nature, there are no jumps whatever. In Nature, everything is connected and everything is alive. The diagram of this classification is called the 'Diagram of Everything Living'.

According to this diagram, every kind of creature, every degree of being, is defined by what serves as food for this kind of creature or being of a given level and for what they themselves serve as food, because in the cosmic order each class of creature feeds on a definite class of lower creature and is food for a definite class of higher creatures.

In the diagram, each square denotes a level of being. The 'hydrogen' in the lower circle shows what the given class of creature feeds on. The 'hydrogen' in the upper circle shows the class which feeds on these creatures. The 'hydrogen' in the middle circle is the average 'hydrogen' of this class showing what these creatures are.

The place of man is the seventh square from the bottom or the fifth square from the top. According to this diagram, man is 'hydrogen' 24, he feeds on 'hydrogen' 96, and is himself food for 'hydrogen' 6. The square next below man will be 'vertebrates'; the next 'invertebrates'. Invertebrates are 'hydrogen' 96. Consequently, man lives on 'invertebrates'.

Do not for the moment look for contradictions, but try to understand what this may mean. And equally, do not compare this diagram with others. According to the food diagram, man feeds on 'hydrogen' 768; according to this diagram on 'hydrogen' 96. Why? What does it mean? Both the one and the other are right. Later, when you grasp this, you will piece everything together into one.

The square next below is plants; the next, minerals; the next, metals, which constitute a separate cosmic group among minerals; and the following square has no name in our language because we never meet with matter in this state on the Earth's surface. The square comes into contact with the Absolute. You remember we spoke before about 'Holy the Firm'. This is 'Holy the Firm'. Notice that this square contains a small triangle with its apex below.

The 'hydrogen' 1644 in the bottom square is an incomplete 'hydrogen': a 'hydrogen' without the Holy Ghost or 'spirit' which gives life. Each complete 'hydrogen' is composed of 'carbon', 'oxygen', and 'nitrogen'. Now take the last 'hydrogen' of the third scale, 'hydrogen' 3072. This 'hydrogen' is composed of 'carbon' 512, 'oxygen' 1536, and 'nitrogen' 1024.

Further: 'Nitrogen' becomes 'carbon' for the next triad, but there is no 'oxygen' for it and no 'nitrogen'. Therefore, by condensation, itself becomes 'hydrogen' 6144: but it is a dead 'hydrogen' without any possibility of passing into anything further. It is a 'hydrogen' without the Holy Ghost.

Now on the other side of man is square 3, 12, 48. This is a class of creatures which we do not know. Let us call them 'angels'. The next square, 1, 6, 24, let us call 'archangels'.

This diagram will not be very comprehensible to you at first, but you will gradually learn to make it out. Only for a long time, you will have to take it separately from all the rest.