We are vessels into which the world flows.
Simply put, Gurdjieff’s enneagram represents the vessel, or alchemical crucible. On this level of Being—earthly incarnation, existence within the flesh--it represents the human body.
The “inner walls” of the vessel are the six inner flowers; these are the sensory tools for receiving higher, or finer, inner impressions.
Together with the “outer walls” of the five conventional senses, which take in our coarser outer impressions, there are 11 separate organs which receive- comparable to 11 of the 12 tones in the 12 tone scale.
These 11 elements are separated, or, in fragments; and it is only in the creation of unity—the exchange of substances—between the “11 elements” that the scale, or octave, is completed as the full 12-tone scale.
That is to say, it is in the blending and meeting of the inner and outer impressions that the vessel is made whole.
Separation of the coarse from the fine, as practiced in alchemy, is learning to distinguish the difference between inner and outer impressions, and understanding that man’s two natures are formed from these two different sets of impressions.
The vessel we inhabit is the seat of the Holy Spirit. This means that the vessel is the container for what is called the Original Self, which can only be remembered by reunifying the fragments of the vessel. The purpose of the vessel is to receive, to contain, and to release the Dharma.
Only if the vessel's inner walls are whole can the Dharma be contained. And only if the Dharma is contained can it be released.
To contain the Dharma is to surrender, which involves an inner act of intentional suffering, or allowing. I won’t be speaking of that further in this essay, but readers should keep it firmly in mind.
In our ordinary state of inner and outer separation, the vessel cannot hold the Dharma. This state is called “illusion” because in every case, it only perceives that portion of the Dharma which can be sensed by the part that takes it in. To “re-member” is to reassemble the parts of the vessel.
In becoming whole, the vessel is opened.
How does one seal the vessel?
Intentional awareness invested within each of the six inner flowers closes the “gap” between the chakras.
The gaps are caused by blockages at each note, or point. When energy moves through evolution in the inner octave, if it reaches a blocked center, it deflects, thus thwarting the evolution of the octave. Because the inner vessel is not whole, the energy "leaks" out at each point instead of circulating, and it runs wild through the system. (This is referred to as wrong work of centers in The Gurdjieff system).
When the flowers are "opened" with invested attention and intention—thus receiving the finer impressions they were built for—the inner energy flows correctly according to the laws of the enneagram.
This effectively forms a "seal," because the "opening" of the flowers allows the energy to circulate within the octave instead of pouring out at every point. Zen tradition refers to this opening as "breaking the joints," referring to the knots—i.e. blockages-- between segments of bamboo.
Thus the opening of the individual chakras with attention and intention is actually also the closing of the gaps in the octave- hence the term "seal". It may seem contradictory, but it isn't at all. Opening and closing are two ends of one stick.
If all the blockages are removed, circulation becomes complete and in one sense actually "STOPS"--because at that point ALL THE PARTS HAVE BECOME ONE THING, ie, a single note in a higher octave.
Hence Gurdjieff’s emphasis on what he calls conscious labor and intentional suffering.
In opening the vessel, the vessel is sealed, and in sealing the vessel, the vessel is opened. Sealing and opening are the same thing.
If we know that as we open, we seal, and as we seal, we open, our vessel can then be prepared to receive the Dharma.
We empty the vessel in order to fill the vessel, and ultimately, we fill the vessel so that it may be emptied again.
Our first and greatest obstacle is our attachment to the outer five senses. We are identified with these senses; this distracts us. Our whole world is created through these senses. We remain unaware of fully half of what is real.
Only by developing an awareness of the inner six senses, creating a relationship with the flowers, can we begin to balance our state. And the question I have visited very often in essays-- investment of the attention with intention within the inner centers -- has everything to do with this work.