Tuesday, November 13, 2007

The sixth division of the society of Akhldanns

I promised some time ago to get back to this subject, and finally the time is at hand.

In "Beelzebub's Tales to his Grandson," Gurdjieff describes the sixth division of the Society of Akhldanns as follows:

"The members belonging to the sixth section were called 'Akhldann-mistessovors,' that is to say, beings who studied all kinds of outer events, whether actualized consciously or arising by themselves, and further studied which of these events were erroneously perceived by beings, and in what circumstances."


In correlating the inner energy centers to the sixth position on the enneagram and in the multiplications, this division of the society represents what is called the "third eye."

A loaded subject, to be sure. There's a lot out there about the third eye. All kinds of magical powers are ascribed to it. We see it repeated slapdash in contemporary metaphysical imagery, literalized and trivialized to the point where it becomes almost meaningless.

Cutting through all the crap, we have two perfectly good eyes that can discern the outside world already. The implication is that the third eye has to have a different kind of perceptual ability. Of course, there are those that feel this ability is psychic (whatever exactly that is supposed to mean.) However, in the allegory presented in Gurdjieff's society of Akhldanns, this eye has a more prosaic ability -- the ability of discrimination.

Discrimination is not a visual ability, which is why all those very literal pictures of dudes with eyeballs in their foreheads bother me. A mouth might actually be a more appropriate image to place there, because if and when the "third eye" does take anything in directly--a very, very rare event indeed, for most people--, it swallows it.

If you think about it, you may agree that discrimination requires not just an intellectual understanding, but also an emotional one. I would personally argue that the center of gravity in the act of discrimination is emotional- an intuitive, tactile quality is needed in order to discriminate. Trying to base discrimination on facts alone is not enough.

And it makes perfect sense to me that this quality of an ability to discriminate would arise from one of the six sensory flowers that comprise the inner emotional structure.

The ability to discriminate was highly valued by Gurdjieff. He asked his students to study subjects such as hypnotism and occultism so that they could tell the difference between the charlatans and real religious discipline. All through his work runs a thread of concern about the delusional nature of people's ordinary way of seeing things.

We run into the same question in Dogen's Shobogenzo. He often speaks of the mistaken views of non-Buddhists, people who are not on the path. In chapter 69 (Nishijima and Cross translation, book 3) he discusses the question of the Eye of the Buddhist patriarchs as follows:

"Thus, in the orders of Buddhist patriarchs, many have pursued the truth by taking up the mind of grass and trees. This is a characteristic of establishment of the bodhi-mind. The fifth patriarch at one time was a being who practiced the way by planting pines. Rinzai experience to the effort of planting cedars and pines on Obaku-zan mountain. There was the old man Ryu who planted pine trees on Tozan mountain. By taking on the constancy of pines and oaks, they scooped out the eye of the Buddhist patriarchs. This was real manifestation of the identity of power in playing with the lively Eye and clarification of the Eye. To build stupas, to build Buddhas, and so on are to play with the Eye, are to taste the establishment of the mind, and are to use the establishment of the mind. Without getting the eye of building stupas and so on, there is no realization of the Buddhist patriarch's truth. After getting the Eye of building Buddhas, we become Buddhas and become patriarchs."

So for Dogen, the use of the third eye has to do with the establishment of the mind. For me, this also implies acquiring the quality of discrimination. His reference to grass and trees mirrors forming a connection between levels, between the upper and lower stories (142 and 857), as well as the inherently organic nature of this work.

The stability (constancy) created by the action of "planting trees"--becoming more rooted in an inner sense-- is what brings them into relationship with this particular flower.

Speaking strictly from my own experience, I would agree that the energy center referred to as the third eye has a special quality. However, this quality is no more "special" than the special qualities of the other five inner flowers. That is to say, each one of them has a special quality, and all of them are needed in conjunction in order to form a whole. Specialized forms of meditation that concentrate strictly on this location may produce results of one kind or another. Unless they understand the relationship between this energy center and the other five flowers, however, they run the risk of imbalancing and overwhelming the system.

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

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