Sunday, November 20, 2011

Why the universe was created

I'm going to preface this post by warning readers that if they are not familiar with Gurdjieff's teachings, it probably won't make the least bit of sense to you. If not, move on for now (unless you enjoy being challenged); new posts with less specialized material will appear in a few days.

People who are intimately familiar with Gurdjieff's teaching are, however, likely to find this particular proposal to be of interest– so for those of you who are, read on.

It takes a lot of chutzpah (this is a Yiddish slang word meaning, more or less, unbridled arrogance) to say that one knows why the universe was created, but in this particular instance, according to Gurdjieffian cosmology, it appears there may be a very specific reason, and an exact explanation as to why it works that way.

Every reader who is familiar with Beelzebub's Tales to His Grandson knows the story about why His Endlessness (aka God) created the universe. It was to counteract the flow of time, which Gurdjieff called the Merciless Heropass.

No complete explanation, however, was given as to exactly why the universe was capable of accomplishing such a feat, although (as you will see) it appears Gurdjieff unabashedly dangled the prospect in front of his readers.  I am going to offer a suggestion based on some fairly obvious deductions.

The matter is elucidated by the known fact that taking in impressions more deeply slows the flow of time to the perceiver.

Long-time practitioners in the Gurdjieff Work have, in many cases, had their own practical experiences with this, and in any event the phenomenon is specifically remarked on in Views From The Real World.

From this point, we can rather easily extrapolate. But before we do so, allow me to remind readers of the principle, “as above–so below.” If this experience functions in this manner in human beings, since we are a model of the universe, so to speak, in miniature, we can reasonably presume that impressions have the same effect on God.

Gurdjieff referred to time as the "unique subjective." (see Beelzebub's tales, pgs. 118-124.) In saying so, he carried on in considerable detail to explain that the perception of time is unique to the observer, in other words, malleable depending on conditions. (This is, by the way, consistent with the Einsteinian view of the flow of time.) One ultimately wonders why he went to such lengths- somewhere around four pages- to make the point.

So here it is, hidden, as it were, in plain sight:

 Because taking in impressions more deeply (i.e., consciously), and in greater quantity, slows the perception of the flow of time, we can understand that the universe was created, and functions as, the perceptive organ for God. It was created in order to change the flow of impressions into the Godhead and thus slow the action of time.

I will forward to you the suggestion that this is the specific action that the well-known trogoautoegocrat, or “law of reciprocal feeding,” cited by Beelzebub manifests.

Consciousness, in all its forms, acts as a sensory tool for His Endlessness to take in impressions, hence the understanding that we are all receivers. The more conscious impressions that God receives through His sensory organ (the universe), and the deeper the impressions are, the more time slows down.

This action effectively extends the life of His Endlessness and the place of His existence.

 Hence the essential responsibility of all living organisms to improve their sensitivity and receive deeper impressions. They benefit not only themselves, but the livelihood of the universe and of God himself, when undertaking this work.  This explains why the task of conscious beings is so essential, and why God needs man as much as man needs God.

Furthermore, nature is designed to extract the maximum number of impressions that it can- whether conscious or unconscious- as deeply as it can, in order to make sure that the uniquely perceived flow of time is slowed to the maximum extent possible. This is why Gurdjieff explained that what nature cannot get in terms of quality, it will extract in terms of quantity. The universe is furthermore constructed in levels so that both conscious and unconscious impressions can be extracted from every level, from the microcosmos to the macrocosmos.

The universe is, in other words, a tool designed for self observation, or, as Gurdjieff called it, self remembering– an activity that even God Himself is engaged in, through the instrument of his creation.

 This particular suggestion offers a further explanation as to why so much emphasis is placed on the action of taking in impressions in Gurdjieff's Work: a unique feature not generally reproduced in other works, and certainly not explained elsewhere in anywhere near the detail that he explained it.

 Seeing human beings–and all conscious organisms, human or otherwise–as particles in the body of God, sensory particles, as so many teachings do, fits rather neatly into this particular suggestion. The point is that the particles in the body of God have a function related to world creation and world maintenance, as Gurdjieff called it.

The third obligolnian striving,  "the conscious striving to know ever more and more about the laws of world creation and world maintenance" (Beelzebub's tales: page 352, second edition) actually refers (among other things) specifically to this question.  The striving consists of an effort to understand the role of the impressions, why we are created to take them in, and the action that they have both in a personal and a universal sense. Students of Gurdjieff's chemical factory (as found in Ouspensky's In Search Of The Miraculous) will notice that the taking in of impressions is capable of creating higher substances that reach all the way, so to speak, to God Himself.  This, too, fits in rather neatly with the critical role impressions play in counteracting the Merciless Heropass.

 I daresay a careful examination of this understanding may lead to explanations for other peculiar yet significant features in regard to this question of impressions, and their unique role in Gurdjieff's cosmology.

I leave it to readers to further ponder the matter, and see whether they think this particular point of view is correct.

May our prayers be heard.


This post is a reflection on Gurdjieff's myth of the creation of the universe, and is not meant to be a reflection by the author on current ideas in contemporary physics, which the reader should understand must inevitably differ from allegorical cosmologies and mythologies. Nor should the reader believe that the author by default subscribes to all of Gurdjieff's unique and unusual cosmological propositions-- although, in his opinion, they are certainly intriguing and most worthy of study.

In Beelzebub, Gurdjieff proposes a God with limitations, that is, a supreme deity nonetheless subject to the action of time, which is a separate entity.  Readers will note this proposal differs substantially from most religious conceptions of God, which propose a transcendental Being, or absolute state of Truth, without such limitations.

 What is perhaps Gurdjieff's most famous commentary on the matter can be found in P. D. Ouspensky's In Search Of The Miraculous,  where the theological student comments that "even God cannot beat the ace of spades with a deuce." (Page 95, Paul Crompton Ltd. Edition, 2004.)

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