Wednesday, October 24, 2007

The fifth division


The business portion of my trip to Asia is now officially over, excepting one final dinner appointment. From here it is on to Bangkok, and from there, where --insh'Allah--my lovely wife will meet me, we fly to Cambodia, where we will be seeing Angkor Wat.

Stay tuned for what should be some extremely cool photos.

Finally, today, we get back to the Society of Akhldanns. We are going to briefly examine the fifth division, which corresponds to the number seven in the multiplications on the enneagram, or, the throat chakra.

This one, my friends, is one of the easier ones.

Gurdjieff's alter ego Beelzebub tells us:

"The members of the fifth group were called 'Akhldann-harnosovors,' which meant that they were occupied with the study of the branch of knowledge that combined the two contemporary terrestrial sciences called by your favorites 'chemistry' and 'physics.'

Let's begin by understanding that when we hear about this location, we cannot take the term "throat" too literally. The throat encompasses a complex area including the medulla oblongata, and does not actually have so much to do with the esophagus.

It seems rather likely, here, that Gurdjieff is pointing us in the direction of studying the exchange of substances. It's not insignificant that in the yoga schools (see Paramahansa Yogananda's work) the medulla oblongata is considered to be the chief accumulator for astral energies. More importantly, perhaps, we know that Gurdjieff said many specific things about the ingestion of air, which in its most immediate physical sense begins in the center of the head in this location. So the location is what we might call a "metaphysically loaded" one.

What do you think? Might we consider studying our experience of air as it enters our nostrils (Dogen mentions nostrils a lot, see yesterday's post) in a more than theoretical manner?

Being present to the arrival of air at the back of the nostrils is the beginning of the study of inner chemistry -- or at least, one of the potential beginnings.

The powerful and intimate neurological connections between the sinuses and the membranes lining the nose--our sense of smell-- with the limbic system are a medically verified fact. The bottom line is that the entire system of the emotional center is stimulated by the arrival of air if it is received with a conscious intention. This is why it is possible for scents to trigger huge floods of emotion and long forgotten memories. When Rumi speaks of the smell of musk, and Dogen speaks of the scent of plum blossoms, they point us in the direction of an incredibly delicate sensibility, a direction which leads us towards the taste of our lives,

...the very fragrance of our being itself.

We can undertake a great deal of personal work in terms of placing the attention at the back of the nostrils as we breathe in. The Zen exercise "piercing the nostrils" is all about this kind of work. We need to understand how to penetrate the experience of the arrival of air, as it carries higher substances into us.

In penetrating the experience with the attention, we "pierce" the nostrils: they become permeable to something new and quite different.

Here we find a path leading directly to the practical study of personal inner chemistry, a path which does not lie in the realm of Gurdjieff's complex theories, but rather in the experience itself.

A place where we might, if we are lucky, catch an echo of the moaning of dragons.

I am going to refrain from describing any of the exercises one might undertake here in any specific detail. The reader needs to examine this question quite directly in their own meditation and in their daily, ordinary practice. The potential for discovery lies within the discoverer, not within the technique or the instruction.

Only an effort at consciousness itself can touch something conscious.

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

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