Tuesday, September 18, 2007

The upside-down man, and laws of accident

Perhaps the most famous esoteric image of the upside down man is the hanged man in the tarot. This is my own upside-down man, painted in what seems to me to be a much earlier era ( about 19 years ago) of my life. Vast chasms separate me from that time, that age, that state. Impossible, from that then- or so it seems--to predict this now, although they are entirely contiguous.

Yet here I am. And it seems (flying directly in the face of the anti-deterministic hypothesis I posed yesterday) that it couldn't be any other way- that that then was always destined to become this now--irrevocably, irretrievably, inevitably.

Summary: we don't know. We're upside down to begin with: tiny particles in an impossibly huge universe, collapsed even further into the tiny, frenetic singularities of our own egos, blind to nature, blind to consequence...

blind to ourselves.

So how could we possibly know where we're headed? We can't. The element of unpredictability--Gurdjieff would have called it the law of accident--that exists at the quantum level of the universe suggests that everything creates its possibilities through an inexactitude--a potential expressed by an unknowing quality of instability, the possibility that everything could veer off in a new direction at any moment.

Indeed, we find such "lawful inexactitudes" in the development of the rate of vibration built into the very fabric of Gurdjieff's enneagram, where "shocks" are needed to keep everything moving on a predictable course. Gurdjieff, in fact, advises us that these deviations were intentionally created and introduced into the fabric of our universe by God.

The perhaps inevitable conclusion: God wanted it to be possible for things to go "wrong."

We all assume--don't we?" that our idea of the predictable course, of orderly progressions, neatly arranged circumstances that flow from one another, is the most desirable. Never mind the fact that Gurdjieff told us that our "carriage" was designed to travel on rocky, lumpy, uneven--yes, unpredictable-- roads, and that it needed that in order to, as he said, "lubricate the joints." Nope. Never mind that. We're all in the paving business, aren't we, busily smoothing out the road, trying to make sure everything proceeds in absolute defiance--insofar as possible--of the law of accident, in defiance of natural unevenness, in definace of the natural tendency towards and even the necessity of


What if the system does not just need the exactitudes--the potential for "correct" progression, the whole development of "completed" octaves, but also the inexactitudes? What if the law of accident--which Ouspensky so valiantly hoped to crawl out from under by developing-- is inescapable, because it is so fundamental to the universe that everything runs on it?

An uncomfortable question.

We might remind ourselves that in Beelzebub's recounting of our planetary history, even Archangels came under the law of accident and made mistakes. Smacking huge asteroids into planets--i.e., Earth-- where they should not have been smacked.


According to those nit-picking biologists who like to trumpet the absolutely accidental origin of everything--as though there were only one law (personally picked, of course, by them, since as experts they know everything) , the law of accident alone runs the progress of evolution.

They're on to something, of course, because that law is very important in every kind of evolution (including, we might even heretically surmise, spiritual evolution) but it's not the only law. Laws of physics and chemistry constrain the development of biological life so tightly that it's unlikely we could have ended up with anything other than what we see in front of us now.

Ever. Anywhere.

So there appears to be a balance of some kind struck between determinism and random accident. Both order and chaos are necessary. If we didn't have order, we wouldn't recognize chaos when we saw it, and vice versa. This holds true for our inner state. We need to experience dissipation in order to know what containment would be; we must sin, in order to "find the good path;" the fruit of our attentiveness would never arise from anywhere, were it not from the rich and fertile ground of our inattentiveness.

So we have to be upside down sometimes. Just not all the time.

Might as well accept it with grace, as the stars and moon and animals look on.

May your buds birth flowers, and your flowers bear fruit.

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