My wife Neal said, "All right, then, what does it tell me about where I am in my life?"
I'm not sure she really expected an answer, but there is one, although it may not be too comforting.
We can view human life from birth to death as a single octave of development. Certain things are supposed to happen during that period; there are whole notes that must be played throughout a life if a man is to develop into a whole Being. This was well known in ancient times, but over time, with the very nearly complete destruction of traditional societies, the science of inner development has essentially collapsed.
One might think that this idea of notes is somehow conjectural or vague, but as with anything regarding the enneagram, it's actually quite specific, and understanding it will help shed considerable light not only on ourselves, but also on modern society and modern psychology practices in general.
Readers might want to open this link to the enneagram of the Harmonious Development of Man and refer to it in light of the following discussion.
In the enneagram of Harmonious Development, the note "Do" represents the birth of a human being.
Re and Mi represent infancy and adolescence, the first two "notes" of life which are played before a shock becomes necessary. In ancient societies, the shock was represented—both implied, and in some cases even actually delivered—by rites of initiation, something that has passed by the wayside in modern societies. Although the shock, of course, represents conscious labor—a task that has to be performed, in the case of these initiatory rites—it usually also involves suffering, thus acting as a foreshadowing of the entire process the young man or woman must go through over the course of their life. Some fragments of these practices survive in modern times, but because the specific inner purpose of the rite has been entirely forgotten, they are now very nearly worthless.
Initiation— the passage, with assistance, to note Fa— represents the formation of a real “I,” that is, the formation of a real—as opposed to false—personality, or, what Gurdjieff called Conscious Egoism. As I have explained both in this blog and my own book, The Law of Three, a man cannot complete any further tasks in his own inner development until he has formed a real “I.” Readers should understand that without this real “I,” there is nothing there to work with further in terms of inner development. Gurdjieff said this to his students over and over.
After passing through initiation, once real "I" has formed, a human being must then form a conscious connection to the essence at note Sol, which, significantly, is on the level of the sun, and represents the entry of a special emotional, or feeling, quality to inner work. (See my book Chakras and the Enneagram for a diagram of the way that the ray of creation relates to the enneagram.) This actually represents the beginning of work on a higher level.
Following this development, we at once encounter the incorrect location of the second conscious shock, which (as always) has an important anticipatory meaning. The shock itself (which is actually located between Si and Do) represents intentional suffering, or surrender—Thy Will be done, or, Islam.
Hence its intimate association with the second conscious prayer, Lord have Mercy.
At the note La, man balances his ego and essence. The "anticipatory" location of the 2nd conscious shock is meant to indicate, in this position, the necessity of surrender on both the part of ego and essence in order to balance. They each need to give to one another, surrendering some of themselves.
At the note Si, which every man or woman is meant to reach by the end of their lives in a proper inner development, a human being develops what is called insight, or wisdom, which prepares them properly for the full surrender that takes place when the actual shock, for which they ought to have prepared all their lives, takes place.
That shock is, in fact, death.
This is what we are preparing for. And the blending and balancing of essence and ego is a foreshadowing of our preparation for death, which must actually occupy all of our inner action after the connection to essence is formed.
Let's get back, now, to Neal's question. Where are we in our lives?
By and large, all of mankind never gets past the note Mi. We remain trapped in a perpetual adolescence, no matter how old our body grows, because we don't understand how to apply the shock of conscious labor—which, as in all other cases, requires help from a higher authority (and is represented by the elders in initiation rites)—to ourselves. This is why men and women interested in inner development must invariably work in schools, where the teacher has a higher authority.
Because there is no real effort made to develop a real "I"— even our religions have almost completely forgotten that this is necessary— American society, and societies all over the world in general, are packed full of adolescents, who behave accordingly—that is, irresponsibly. That's because we have never attained the actual age of responsibility from an inner point of view; all we have done is age physically.
Our psychology is trapped at the same point. Because all of us are, in many senses, perpetually no more than children, we focus on issues from our childhood and adolescence when we examine mankind's psychology; and we act like babies, or spoiled teen agers. It would be unusual for anyone to find a real man or a real woman with this kind of psychological issues, because by the time real “I” forms, the childish issues have, as St. Paul so eloquently indicated, been settled. The heroes of mythology often represent individuals who have formed real "I", sometimes quite early in life, as the myths of child heroes demonstrate.
One could say many other things on this subject, hundreds of them, in fact, but readers must do their own work with these concepts to understand, for example, the way in which the sub-octaves that lie underneath each note of this octave of the life cycle affect the development of the whole.
We could indicate, for example, that at every note, a fraction of the note may form, but not its whole tone, because the subsidiary octave hasn't developed completely or correctly, and one can thus end up with many permutations of octaves, or lives, with a wide variety of consequent assets or deficits.
Which is, of course, exactly what we see in real life.
One last point ought to be mentioned; as always in the movement of energy through octaves, there is a constant interaction between the notes, as represented by Gurdjieff's multiplications. The implication is inescapable: our life weaves patterns throughout itself between the various times in our lives and the parts that form in us. They speak to one another, and inform one another.
The idea of using the present to repair the past and prepare the future takes on an added dimension when viewed in the context of the enneagram of Harmonious Development. Our life is engaged in an active dialogue with itself, throughout all of its stages; and we must help it to weave a whole tapestry, score a complete song, not a series of disconnected and dissonant notes.
When Gurdjieff referred to the Harmonious Development of man, he was specifically interested in these questions.
I respectfully hope you will take good care.