At conception, essence and the physical body conjoin. All living creatures are conceived in this way, which means all have some combination of an essence and a physical body. Essences differ considerably between species and will be discussed in the September labor. Physical bodies also differ between species, but their general utility is the same: they make it possible to move, access nourishment, avert danger, and procreate. Of our three bodies, the physical body is the one we share the most in common with the rest of the animal world. For this reason, the May and June labors, dedicated to farming the physical body, are represented by harvesting hay—hay being food for livestock.
May spanned the moving function of the physical body; June will span the instinctive function. While the abilities of the moving function obviously differ between species—one walks, another flies, a third is adapted to swim—the instinctive function of all species is fundamentally the same. It is responsible for the survival and well-being of the organism. It governs all its physiological processes, such as respiration, digestion, circulation, etc. It is also hard-coded to favor conditions or resources that aid its survival and to avoid those that constitute a threat. It formulates its priorities accordingly, even if these priorities conflict with the needs of essence and personality. This is right work from the perspective of the instinctive function, as without such priorities we would not meet the basic requirements for living. We would lack the instinct to avoid danger, lack the drive to earn our daily bread, and lack the sense of responsibility to provide for our offspring. Our species would face extinction.
The instinctive function’s priorities do not encompass inner farming. As long as we are only making brief and intermittent efforts to study the structure of our psychology and to observe its functioning in real time, it only mildly resists our anemic progress. But once we step up our efforts and attempt to introduce some form of inner discipline, some alternative government to our habitual way of manifesting, the instinctive function senses that its priorities are being threatened and increases its resistance. The specifics of how it does this vary and are material for self-observation, but the general rule is that it amplifies our bodily demands. As the brain in charge of monitoring our bodily processes, it can manipulate them to dissuade effort. It can make us feel too tired, too unwell, or too lightheaded, to invest more attention in our present activity than is strictly required for its basic, functional fulfillment. In that respect, it can be said that the instinctive function is under the law of gravity. Like a river that finds the easiest path to the sea, it always pursues the path of least resistance and greatest energy conservation. Our organism’s natural yield is quite enough, refinement is superfluous. Nature is enough, inner farming is superfluous.
We can verify our instinctive function’s competition with inner farming when we attempt to apply the disciplines of this work while performing instinctive activities. The instinctive function perceives this as an intrusion and will adamantly resist. A good area for experimentation is dining. To observe ourselves while dining, it is not enough to merely wish for it to happen; we must employ specific exercises to counteract instinctive resistance. Usually, this involves a slowing down of our natural tempo while dining. We can do this by putting our utensils down on the table between bites, or keeping our elbows from touching the table, or finishing chewing one bite before preparing the next—or all of these together. Once our habitual haste around dining is curbed, we gain the possibility of tasting our food—of bringing attention to the sense of taste—instead of swallowing and gulping like the rest of the animal world.
In applying these dining exercises, it is important to note that we are not doing anything injurious to our physical body—we are not denying it the sustenance it needs for proper functioning. We are only insisting that it partake of what it needs on different terms. The threat here is not existential; it is the usurping of a tyrant seated on the throne of our internal world—a tyrant whose existence we had not even suspected. Verifying this is in itself worthwhile, even if we find we are unable to introduce self-observation while dining, as, at least initially, will be the case. We will have taken a radical step towards revealing and understanding the psychology of our instinctive function. Replacing it with conscious government will come in due course.
This is our labor for June.