Monday, April 9, 2007

Gurdjieff, on the heart

Tonight we are going to have a post that will be of specific interest to people who study Gurdjieff. I understand there are many readers who are not immersed in this particular subject. My apologies to them. Tomorrow I am going to discuss a personal practice which has, in some senses, nothing to do with Gurdjieff (ha ha ha), and might thus be of more use to a wider audience, but for tonight, let's talk about the subject of pianos.

Some of you are familiar with my essay on the meaning of the enneagram with relation to centers, or chakras. Bits and pieces of it have been introduced during the course of this blog. (Anyone who is specifically interested in getting the essay can contact me by leaving a comment and I will be glad to send it to them via e-mail. Be forewarned, it is not light reading.) In any event, what I am about to discuss will be more meaningful if you are familiar with the idea of the chakras and to the specific relationship between the notes on the enneagram and the physical centers of the human body.

I refer you now to page 795 in the new edition of "Beelzebub's Tales to his Grandson," from which the following quote is taken.

"On this piano, 'vibrations of extraneous origin' arise from different 'shocks,' 'noises, 'rustlings,' 'and for the most part from what are called,' aerial momentum vibrations,' which are generally formed in atmospheric space from the natural vibrations already present there."

Here Gurdjieff is likening the work of the human body to a piano. It is an instrument that works to create its music, its inner rate of vibration, from an aerial medium. In case we do not get the point that he is talking about the second being food, air, let's take a look at what he says just a bit later.

"Just as the first being the food cannot acquire its vivifying power until after its transformation into 'being-pentoehary,' so on this piano, the vibrations of the string do not acquire a corresponding vivifying power until they have been fused with the preceding vibrations, starting from the totality of the center of gravity vibrations of the tone 'sol.'"

He discusses the first being food here so that we will not miss the point- unusual, for a man who is known to have enjoyed burying bones so deep that the dogs cannot sniff them! We can only presume he was about to make a point he felt was rather important.

Just what is he getting at?

There are a number of important understandings contained in these few sentences. Gurdjieff is talking about and comparing work of the first being food -- what we eat -- with the work of the second being food -- what we breathe.

Both of them need to hit the point "5" on the enneagram in order to begin their most essential work. Until the work within the octave reaches this point, the food that has been ingested has not "acquired its vivifying power" -- it cannot help to enliven the organism.

Som as in food we eat, the beginning of the "big" work- the work that enlivens- of air in the body begins with the tone 'Sol.'

If you refer to the essay on the enneagram, you will see that this note corresponds to the heart. So he is saying that the work of the upper story (857) with air begins with the heart. (Those of you attentive to details will have noted what it says in the upper right-hand corner of my blog.) So Gurdjieff tells us that, as my own studies have verified, the connection between breathing and work of taking material in through the heart is a vital one.

This underscores a certain kind of esoteric body work, as well as the central place of emotion as the fuel for spiritual work. And that, of course, is an idea that Gurdjieff drove home on more than one occasion.

What is even more interesting to me -- after all, those who, along with me, have studied this question of centers and their relationship to the enneagram will probably not find what I have just said all that surprising -- is the manner in which every tone must contain all of the vibrations of the tones that go before it in order to manifest itself fully. This is another piece of information that has so many avenues which can be explored that we cannot go into it in the blog. It points us towards the inner "string of pearls"- a series of notes that can be sounded within the organs of the body.

That contains within itself a beauty that can only be explored, and not contained.

One last note, if you will excuse the pun.

Last night I had a dream in which I was in a field with an essence-friend of mine from Arkansas. Mr. Gurdjieff was there, sitting a few yards from us in an overcoat. I suggested to my friend that we go and say hello to him. There was some hesitation on his part, but I felt that it would be perfectly okay. Mr. Gurdjieff got up and began to walk towards whatever work event it was that had been scheduled. I followed him, fully intending to say hello, but never quite caught up with him.

In recounting it, I see there is a poignancy to this dream.

It reminds me of Newton's comment: "if I have seen far, it is only by standing on the shoulders of giants."

May your trees bear fruit, and your wells yield water.

Lee

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