Monday, December 26, 2011
essence and influences
The enneagram is not only able, in one way or another, to define and describe all of Gurdjieff's ideas; it's often the best tool for the task. Referring to my simplified and somewhat conscise diagram of essence and personality, readers will see that essence is related to the law of three, and is connected to influences from a higher level, whereas personality belongs to the circular, or horizontal, rotation of the octave, and is consequently only able to act on this level. (The enneagram represents the intersection of two worlds, and the multiplications represent the movement of energy within a specific horizontal level. See chakras and the enneagram and centers of gravity and and conscious shocks for more detailed material on the subject.)
Essence, under the influence of a higher "do," is a stable entity- personality is not. Furthermore, essence itself arises in and carries the influences from the level above us. It is, in other words, directly connected to the idea of a "soul," and explains why all infants arrive on the planet with already defined characteristics, which have been instilled in it in its origins at the astral, or planetary, level. Those interested in the ideas surrounding reincarnation (which Gurdjieff disavowed in his writings, but- as I was once told by someone who knew & worked with him personally- actually affirmed in personal exchanges) may begin to intuit more about that question by studying this version of the diagram.
According to my interpretation, the diagram furthermore illustrates that the conscious shocks in man are connected with the action of essence, and that its role in the regulation and development of personality are absolutely... well, essential... if it is to develop a right relationship in its action. Personality, by its nature, has a great deal of centrifugal force, due to the rotating nature of its cycle around the perimeter of the octave. It thus tends to force life outward, away from being, by"throwing off"arriving impressions. Essence, on the other hand, has by its own inward nature an inherent ability to take impressions into a stable center. When Zen masters ask students to know something "in their hara," or gut, they are basically asking that impressions be taken in by essence, rather than toyed with by personality. Essence has a tactile organic quality and an ability to sense which is mostly lacking in personality.
We may hereby infer that conscious labor and intentional suffering are actions of essence, informed (inwardly formed) with the participation of influences from a higher level. No wonder Gurdjieff told Ouspensky that a man's essence must develop- without it, all inner work must inevitably stall.
The three being foods are also connected to the action of essence and the shocks. The first being-food is a physical representation of conscious labor, and the second being-food, air, is connected to the action of intentional suffering. The third being food of impressions is actually a link, in its entirety, to the level above us- which is why, in the right state, taking in very nearly any impression whatsoever, a man is able to sense the sacred nature of existence. The three being foods are, moreover, intimately connected to the action of essence in man, as this version of the enneagram makes clear. Awareness of one's self while one eats or breathes-both essential practices in many spiritual disciplines--are meant to help the development of a deeper connection to essence. Taking in the three being-foods consciously helps essence grow. Need we any clearer explanation of exactly why Gurdjieff wanted his pupils to prepare and eat their food with a right attention? Perhaps not. Let us not forget, furthermore, the central role the preparation and consumption of meals plays in Christ's teaching. There are no coincidences here.
Speaking in broader terms, mankind evolved on the planet specifically to take in impressions of the natural world. These feed both essence and personality in a specific way that ordinary, "manmade" impressions cannot. (Prominent biologists such as Edward O. Wilson have come to the exact same conclusions, albeit via a different route.) Mankind's longstanding and romantic infatuation with impressions of nature is the residual echo of a faint realization that such food is the most important food one can take in. Nonetheless, it does a man little or no good without the right corresponding development in all his parts.
A better connection between the centers can open the body, mind, and emotions to a more immediate and more deeply essential impression of nature. In moments such as this, personality takes a distinct back seat.
I respectfully ask you to take good care.
Next post, December 28: Essence, Intuition, and Conscience