Wednesday, October 8, 2008

The law of three

The question of the law of three has come up in my personal circle on a number of occasions recently, and every time it gets discussed, the impression that we don't understand this law very well deepens in me.

That is not to say that I understand it very well either. Probably no one does. Nonetheless, attempting to take this law out of context and understand it serves nothing and no one. It is part of the whole system. Understanding the integrated nature of the system is essential if we want to know what we are up to, from a technical point of view.

Regular readers know I'm the first guy to assert that a technical understanding alone is next to no understanding at all. Nonetheless, there are moments in work where the technical understanding can be nearly invaluable, if it is used to help measure actual experience more accurately. Because the technical understanding is part of a legitimate work of the intellect, it is, in fact, just as necessary as the more "magical" aspects of understanding that come from the other minds that work in us.

In my study of the enneagram, it has become clear to me that there is a fundamental difference in nature between the law of three and the law of seven. If we look at the enneagram itself, it represents an octave -- that is, an entity in and of itself that is found within a particular level. It has a unique materiality to it consisting of the six subsidiary notes (re, mi, fa, sol, la, si) plus the two "do" notes-- which, as we all know, are represented by a single point on the diagram. That in and of itself has metaphysical implications I will not be covering in this essay.

The law of three, on the other hand, is not constrained to a single level. The energy from the law of three emanates directly from the highest level of the universe, the holy Trinity, and it percolates downward through octaves, providing motive forces (shocks) to help the octaves evolve properly and complete themselves.

The fact that organic life on Earth is a shock directly implies that it plays a role related to the law of three, that is, it is mediating energies from a higher level in order to help the process on the level it intervenes at. This is exactly consistent with Mr. Gurdjieff's teaching on the matter.

If we look at the three centers -- moving, emotional, intellectual -- we see that they form a triad-- that is, they belong to the law of three. The three centers, in other words, are a motive force capable of adding impetus to the material substance of the organism we live in, in order to raise its vibration and help it complete itself. They mediate the force that imparts the necessary shocks.

This brings us back to the idea that each center constitutes an octave in itself--the "unique materiality" I spoke of earlier-- and each of these octaves needs to be completed in order for man to become whole. (see my essay on the subject at

The interpenetration of the law of three and the law of seven is ubiquitous. They are interdependent. Talking about the law of three without talking about the law of seven at the same time is like talking about an insect, but leaving out its six legs--the very features that make it an insect.

The three centers that we work with, in other words, are there to provide a shock for the organism and raise the inner rate of vibration. No one of them alone can complete this work. This is why the unity of our otherwise fragmentary centers becomes so important.

Gurdjieff alluded on a number of occasions to the fact that each center is composed of separate parts. Not just the three parts that he referred to when he said each center actually has its own moving, emotional, and intellectual part -- there, he was just advising us in an oblique manner that the centers themselves are octaves whose motive force is also provided by the law of three. In the lecture that he last read at the New York Playhouse in 1924 (found in the last chapter of "Beelzebub's tales to his grandson") he specifically mentions that the emotional center is composed of six organs called "receivers of vibration of different qualities."

These are the six physical, or material, locations, i.e., localizations, for the receiving of emotional material. The moving, intellectual, and emotional parts of emotional center are the parts that provide the shocks for the interaction of these six organic "notes." taken as a whole, it constitutes a complete and fully functioning emotional center. When Gurdjieff spoke about the Way of the Monk being a Way that could "perfect" or "complete" emotional center, this is exactly what he meant.

Many readers will probably have to take my word for it when I say that it is possible to undertake a direct organic study of this question, which I refer to in my own language as the study of the six inner flowers. Nonetheless, it is just this kind of study that real work begins to consist of, if one is serious about inner examination.

One would have to suspect the organism works this way with all the other centers, although we don't know exactly how that works -- or at least I don't. But, as I have pointed out before, the "chakras" of traditional yoga almost certainly represent the six localizations for the receiving of emotional vibration. These points are definitely possible to sense. One can even come to a quite clear realization that, as Jeanne DeSalzmann constantly used to say, they are not properly connected, and that we are in fragments. But there are, of course, larger aspects to that question which lie well beyond the scope of any single essay.

Gurdjieff's constant emphasis on the need for the development of essence is, in fact, unequivocally an emphasis on the need for the development of emotional center. Anyone who doubts this contention need only read the essays in "Views From the Real World," "Body, Essence, and Personality," and "Essence and Personality," which directly follows it. He makes it quite clear in those two pieces.

So when we speak of something essential in man -- that is, something essence related -- we speak of something that is emotional, in a legitimate way. The problem, of course, is that most of our emotions are entirely illegitimate and even negative. They are quite literally illegitimate--the emotions of bastards, because they do not spring from properly married parts of emotional center.

So if you are wondering why we behave that way, there you are.

Elsewhere, of course, Gurdjieff said that if emotional center didn't start working properly, nothing else was possible. The possibility that the correct work of emotional center has a physical component -- that is to say, one that can be organically sensed and participated in -- is rarely discussed in the Gurdjieff work, even though it is certain it's true.

Gurdjieff's emphasis on the need to heal the emotional center so that it functions properly raises an interesting question. Despite his obvious immersion in Djana (or intellectual) yoga (the Way of the Yogi), was he in fact always a bhakti practitioner at heart? Was his deepening compassion over the course of his lifetime the result of seeing, through his extraordinary intellectual achievement, everything that was needed, and realizing that the most important component in man was a whole heart?

It brings me back to the conviction that deepens in me with every passing year that the Gurdjieff work is primarily -- perhaps even almost exclusively -- about learning how to love.

Not in a sentimental way, but in the whole way that involves all the centers.

May your roots find water, and your leaves know sun.

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