Thursday, March 22, 2012

Rebellion and Obedience

Marble female figure
Cycladic, final Neolithic, ca. 4500–4000 BC
 Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

The question of obedience, which isn't talked about that much anymore in the Gurdjieff practice—although it is common in the monastic versions of most esoteric practices—is critical to understanding our place.

 The entire allegory of Beelzebub's Tales To His Grandson rests on the questions of rebellion and obedience. Beelzebub, we learn, was cast out of heaven because of rebellion, and banished to our own solar system to contemplate the error of his ways.

What emerges is over a thousand pages of contemplation on the subject of law. The universe, we learn, is strictly composed of laws, and everything is law-conformable, whether one wants it to be or not. Law, like the Dharma, is absolute, all-encompassing—embracing both congruence and contradictions. And, in a twist that renders Gurdjieff's cosmology distinct from most others, even God is subject to those laws.

 Mankind, we furthermore learn, has failed to understand law, and this failure results in a steady deterioration of his psyche. Mankind's lack of obedience to law mirrors Beelzebub's own descent to our solar system; a failure to obey law causes one to descend, to move towards a lower level, where less is possible. Only through the understanding, the comprehension, of law, and the education of the psyche in regard to those laws, can the situation be reversed. This, in a nutshell is a major port of what the book is all about.

The allegory of Beelzebub, however, is more sophisticated than we may suspect. Beelzebub is ourselves; or, rather, that part of ourselves which comes from the heart of consciousness in the heart of life, our essence—the part of ourselves which contains a connection to the sacred principle of life which animates the universe. Beelzebub, in his banished incarnation (symbolized by the spaceship Karnak, the body) is separated from God in the first conscious shock—the "I am" in which the ego separates itself from heaven in order to establish a meaningful individuality.

Here, in his separation from God, he encounters Earth: the personality, a confusing and misguided external set of circumstances—an entire world— that refuses to obey laws or understand what it is, and what its position in the universe is.  Beelzebub's six sojourns on planet Earth represent immersion in the six "subjective" notes of the octave, the realm of the multiplications and of circulation around the perimeter of the enneagram. His pilgrim's processed through the history of the earth, in other words, represents the encounter of essence with personality, and its struggle to develop against the overwhelming mechanical force of the external world.

So in the book we have a world of essence, of something that comes from God, meeting a world constructed from material reality, or personality. The part that comes from God descends into material reality over and over again, attempting to understand it, while at the same time working to correct the flaws that separated it from the Godhead in the first place.

Only through obedience and the understanding of law is it possible to right this violated order, both in Beelzebub and in mankind.

 And who better to judge the foibles, inconsistencies and misunderstandings of man than one who is a rebel himself? Beelzebub arrives on the scene equipped with the empathy and compassion needed to enter this world and work in it; and he has compelling reasons to do so; after all, his own salvation rests on his ability to understand how he himself has transgressed.

Essence, in other words, arrives on the scene with its own task of self-awareness, and—if it only knew itself—has the same empathy and compassion, the same wish for success, that Beelzebub brings to mankind. Essence has the capability of working not to punish or banish personality, but to embrace and support it. The idea isn't to exterminate life on earth; the idea is to help it become law-conformable.  This can't take place, however, unless essence wakes up and becomes aware of itself.

 I respectfully hope you will take good care.

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