Saturday, September 29, 2012


In Arabic, there is a term used by Ibn al 'Arabi to describe the process whereby man comes to manifest divine attributes. The term is takhalluq,  from the root khuluq, meaning character, in either a general or specific sense.

 In the general sense,  a spiritual path is understood to lead man to manifest these various traits, which may be said to reflect the nature of God. In other words, this reflection is (as Gurdjieff would have explained) a material reflection, but it's a reflection in process. In other words, a human being manifests divine properties in movement through life. Those divine properties  include Compassion, Love, Mercy, Wisdom, Generosity, Forgiveness, and so on.

 In al Arabi's  cosmic hierarchy, the manifestation of the divine strikingly (and very nearly exactly) recapitulates the material I wrote about in the Path of the Yogi.  Let's take this example:

"It is clear that a certain hierarchy exists among the names. For example, God does not do something (power) without wanting to (desire.) He cannot desire to do something without discerning its situation (knowledge.) And he cannot have knowledge without existing in the first place (life.) —The Sufi path to knowledge, William C Chittick, State University of New York press, 1989, page 23.

 I came across this after doing the work on the Path of the Yogi. Readers will see that Gurdjieff's enneagram, when the traditional properties of the yogic chakras are properly laid out on it, precisely reflects this Sufic understanding.

 All of that is well and good, and strongly reaffirms the wholly lawful cosmic principles behind this action of the divine, but it's not the point of this essay. It's important to understand technique, but this isn't a technical question, at least, not in this sense.

The point is that man can't acquire the character or nature of God unless he is in relationship with a higher energy.

The reason that Jeanne de Salzmann emphasized this work, very nearly to the exclusion of many of the techniques that Gurdjieff introduced to Ouspensky, is that inner work as it was introduced by Gurdjieff is an evolving octave—as it must be, lawfully. And the notes that had to be sounded in that octave by the beginning of the teaching have been passed. The work that needs to be done now, the inner work that is vital to the progress of this octave, is receiving the energy. Anyone who expects this work to continually remain in the same place and have the same emphasis is asking for it to stop.  Stopping is safe; it keeps us within the realm of the familiar. But this path of the yogi demands a constant movement into the unknown.

Some will stop. Some will move on. It's always this way.

No man can be transformed without coming into relationship with a higher energy. We are here to help the divine come into a material manifestation within reality, and we can never do that without being in relationship with a higher force. We can't just be in relationship with a higher energy during meditation, and then expect it to inform our action later.

We always need to make an effort to be in a relationship with a higher energy now. That will inform—inwardly form—actions which then take place in an outer sense.

This business of trying to change things from the outside in is a waste of time for those engaged in inner work. Yoga, inner work, works the other way around—it works backward, seen from the point of view of the ordinary world. And it works backward by beginning with a receiving, a coming into relationship with, a higher energy. This must become the absolute and fundamental practice—the root of everything that is done in life. I will be dragged off ten thousand times in other directions, and ten thousand and one times, I must return to myself and seek that relationship with a higher energy.

There is no other practice for those of us who are serious. This sacred task, of helping the divine come into an immediate manifestation with the world, must begin with the receiving of a higher energy, because no action in the world that does not first come from this action is in relationship with the higher. Those of us who think we are working ought to take a much closer look at this question in every minute of life.

  It's my responsibility to continually, all day long, seek to find each and every manifestation, no matter how ephemeral it may be, in which a higher energy comes into relationship. It may come into relationship with me in many different ways, because God does not work in one way. It will always be an inner vibration. And if I carry my question in me at all times, I will see that there is always a Friend close enough to me for me to reach out. I don't need to remember myself in relationship to my ordinary self—I need to remember myself in relationship to this energy.

 If I perform this task seriously, and not just by talking about it or assuming an outward air of knowing, I will see many disturbing things. This is certain. But each one will help me.

And the Friend that reaches out to support this work will always be present when it knows that I care.

  I respectfully hope you will take good care.

Thursday, September 27, 2012


The intellect must be given its due, and we cannot dispense with intelligence and still approach life in a meaningful way.

Those who reject all answers are merely rejecting all responses; and although perpetual questioning may strike a noble pose, it belies the fact that all of life is a relationship, and everything is a response. The cosmos is built of interactions; responses. One thing calls; another answers. All things are constantly in movement. Anyone who believes that an answer is the end of things is mistaken; anyone who believes that there are no answers is equally mistaken.

So we need intelligence. We need to search.  The search is composed not just of questions; and not just of answers. It is a call and response affair.

There are also times when the intellect needs to be put aside. It dominates too much; and we don't understand its place. There is also a need for stillness to come.

 I don't craft stillness with my meditation practice. I prepare for it. It may come; it may not. I can pray for it, but that does not mean it will exist. Stillness arises and subsides according to its own laws, laws I am unfamiliar with. Nonetheless, I'm familiar with stillness; it can be a friend, a lover, in the same way that my innermost self is a lover when I reach for it, tenderly.

And what of this stillness?

There is still a relationship. It is a response, but it is a response of a different order. Because it originates in a place other than myself, and simply manifests itself in myself, it has a different quality. Sometimes to respond is to be still. In these cases, one need breathe very little; one can just be quiet, and simple.

What is the merit of quietude and simpleness? The merit is in not knowing. One simply is quiet, and quietly simple. The action is sufficient unto itself.

Perhaps when I am like this, I can see that actions can become sufficient unto themselves. In not serving the external, and not moving in relationship to outside forces, they begin to serve in a different way than what I'm familiar with. So stillness is a movement into the unfamiliar, part of myself that I don't know.

An action that is sufficient unto itself is sufficient unto God. Actions that are sufficient unto the day (the external) are quite different than actions that are sufficient unto themselves. One is evil, strictly in the sense that it is entangled in material things; the other is intact.

 Even as stillness subsides — and it will subside — a kernel of this stillness remains. It can be carried into the day, intact — as I always remind myself, meaning, untouched. I try to carry this kernel of an untouched stillness in me, even in the midst of the most hectic part of the day. I may not always remember it, but its continued presence, which has a life of its own, gently reminds me that it exists.

It becomes a support for the action that's necessary in the external world.

I respectfully hope you will take good care.


This is, of course, a companion post to the post at the Doremishock blog.

 The action of veneration and the action of intimacy come together seamlessly in the Lord have Mercy prayer.

 I ask the Lord for help. In asking, already, I venerate, because in my heart, in my mind, and in my body, I acknowledge that there is nothing but the Lord, and I surrender my heart, my mind, and my body, because all of them belong to the Lord, and although I experience them as forever (forever being this lifetime) separated from the Lord, in reality, the Lord is in them, and never leaves.

The Lord is my shepherd because the Lord is my Master, and this higher principle is always within me in the form of a vibration I am often unaware of. This higher vibration, which actually creates me—and which I yet think is separate from me—is all of me. It is my wish; it is Truth; it is the Lamb of God, which is forever directly next to me and in me.

 I ask for help because I worship the Lord; this means I acknowledge the value of the Lord; I venerate the Lord. I know that this higher principle, this higher energy, brings a new principal for life. It ought to forever inform this life, forever, that is, in this moment. This energy is not somewhere else; it is here. It is not someone else; it is me. It is not yesterday or tomorrow; it is now. And yet I'm not available to it. So I ask for Mercy.

Mercy is intimate, because I have to surrender myself in order to receive Mercy. Myself, as I am, I have no Mercy. I am, in fact, Merciless. Like others, I will do harm to get what I want.  I will not just do harm to others; I will do harm to myself. In such a way, I violate the Lord with every action. And here is how I discover sin in myself: it isn't that complicated. It begins with this violation. Every step that I take past the violation, this inner violation, into outer action is merely an affirmation of the original violation: an appendage. So my outer action, which is what seems sinful, is only the result of the sin, not its original cause, not its root. And in changing the outer action, I simply plaster over the wound, which prevents me from seeing it.

The parts of me that are better informed, and that know what a terrible price I will pay for my actions,  both inner and outer, are asleep. Only an action in me, a conscious action, and the reciprocal action that this initiates, can change this circumstance.

But I can't receive Mercy unless I ask for it. And this is an intimate act. Because I have to allow, to intentionally suffer, this energy, the Lamb of God, to enter me in such a way as to take away the sins of the world. And the difficulty is that I myself am the sins of the world. So I am admitting that I will have to die in this instance.

Death is not the action of an enemy. Whether it comes here, now, and is of the spirit and the soul, or comes later, of the body, it is a friend. Death is the passage to a new life.

How can I describe it? It is as though I stand on the edge of a magnificent landscape, a foreign country filled with miracles, that is at the same time empty of everything coarse and material, which I could step into at any moment.

  There is a light in this country. It emanates from everything and fills everything; it cleanses all that is so that what is— that is, in this state of separation, what could be— is perfect. It is perfect in the sense of being untouched; it is perfect in the sense of having been prepared for me, and it is perfect in the sense of waiting for me.

Yet I am afraid to go there. And this is what my death is. I will go there whether I want to or not, because every creature—every created Being who is an indivisible part of the Lord, and all created Beings are such—will have to return to the Lord. By created beings I mean everything from atoms to universes.

 So death is the gift of return from this passage we participate in. And Mercy is the path to understanding this, and acquiring the courage to step into this unknown and unknowable country filled with light.

I approach the Lord with veneration because through my inner effort, I slowly begin to understand that this energy has been available all along, and is made available to me to help me take this step, to make this passage.

 The whole path is in preparation for this death. As in sin, where every other action is an appendage of the inner violation, so every outer action in life is an appendage, a surrounding circumstance, of the inner action of preparation.

Or at least it would be so, for one who worked.

 I respectfully hope you will take good care.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The Enneagram Resource

Announcing a new resource for those interested in studies of the enneagram as it is approached in this space.

The enneagram resource

 This resource pulls together posts and diagrams covering a number of years of work, and organizes them into a single page where any of the diagrams can be quickly accessed.

I originally created this page for myself, because I was constantly having to poke around looking for my diagrams when I wanted to show them to people, and it was driving me nuts.

After I finished making it, I realized that it ought to be made available to the public. Readers will find that the diagrams are extensively cross referenced to quotes and active links on subjects available on the Internet, as well as — where appropriate — links to the original blog post that they came from.

 This resource will be added to as studies continue.

 The site is new, and rather complex, so if anyone finds dysfunctional links or other obvious errata, please let me know about it.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The presence of God—II

In Sermon number 2, Meister Eckhart says:

 If someone were to ask me: why do we pray, why do we fast, why do we all perform our devotions and good works, why are we baptized, why did God, the all highest, take on our flesh?—Then I would reply: in order that God may be born in the soul and the soul be born in God.

 I live in the world, and I see something of God in the world. In this way, I see God as relative to the world; the world is not God, and God is not the world, but there is something of God the world. Or, perhaps I think there is something of the world in God. So I think the world is godly; for I think that God is worldly.

 Yet there is nothing but God in the world. The world, and all the works we participate in, are not relatively like God, or do not have "something to do" with God. The world is absolutely God; and God is absolutely the world. Every manifestation is absolutely the manifestation of God. And it is this absolute quality, this inseparability, that escapes me.

 I cannot know God as something relative. If I want to know God, I must know God absolutely, and in order to know God absolutely, the soul must be born in God. The soul cannot be partly in God; there is no small portion of God to be taken away from God and put somewhere else. And if God is only partly in the soul, then God has once again been apportioned. So for as long as I see less than the absolute presence of God, I don't see God. I don't know God.

 To see God absolutely is to see God without restrictions, to be set free. So it is to have the freedom to see God without any limitations. This can't be done with the mind, because the minute that the mind thinks of God, it is already a limitation. To call God “God” is to limit God; so in the same way that Zen Buddhists attempt to go beyond, I don't just seek God, I seek the freedom of the God beyond my God.

 Once again, a koan.

It's my own incapability that enters the picture here. For reasons that can't be explained: reasons that have no words to attach to them here, the way my Being has formed, I perceive separation where there is none. This is called sin, yet it is the effect and not the cause. So even after I have identified the effects—the products—I don't know the cause, and my search is an intimate search for the cause.

This is an anguishing search. I don't know what I am looking for; I have a nostalgia for Being, as Jeanne de Salzmann put it, a wish to return home. But because I'm attached to what I am now, I somehow don't want to go all the way home; I want to go halfway home.

What limits me is my own sense of responsibility. This is confusing, because I know I should be responsible; I'm brought up that way. And truly, God does demand responsibility. But my own sense of responsibility is a separated sense, a relative sense, and the responsibility to God is absolute; I must become free of my own responsibility, because it is limitation. Only in freedom from my own responsibility can I take on the absolute responsibility that belongs to God.

When God is born in the soul, and the soul is born in God, even in one instant, God returns Himself to Himself. And this is, after all, His aim; God wishes to remember Himself in us, just as He remembers Himself in all His creation.

For as long as I am what I am, I stand between God and His wish.

 There is an absolute quality when God is present. I wish to be in relationship to that quality, not my own qualities; and if I sense my own nothingness, that is where I begin to sense it—in this quality of the absolute, this higher energy, which does not have a system of brokerage, which admits no worldly owners, and which transfers an understanding that is not given in words.

 These are the mysteries I seek to participate in.

 I respectfully hope you will take good care.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Faith, Hope, and Love

Why is conscience,  in Gurdjieff's system, such an important property?

 In order to understand this question, we have to go back to his magnum opus, Beelzebub's Tales to His Grandson, and review what was said by the very saintly Ashiata Shiemash in the chapter "The Terror of the Situation."

Take clear note of the fact that the being-functions Faith, Hope, and Love, are all sacred being impulses, that is, these impulses or properties do not belong to the routine rotation of the law of seven in the enneagram, i.e., the ordinary quality of life.  The only place that we can locate these three properties in the diagram is within the law of three: and indeed, they belong there.

 These three sacred ways had always been used by previous Sacred Individuals as a means for correcting the deficiencies in man's consciousness, because each one of them provides a shock within the circumstances of life. Logically enough, Love is the greatest of these paths, as Paul pointed out in 1 Corinthians 13, and hence we find it located at the apex of the triangle representing the law of three, as it should be.

 Nonetheless, it was the inescapable conclusion of Ashiata Shiemash that each of these sacred properties had deteriorated so much in man that none of them were any longer able to act in a sacred manner. In essence, the connection to them in man had been broken — their rate of vibration no longer provided a shock. They had descended, as the chapter so eloquently explains, to the coarse level of ordinary being, which enthusiastically apes their action, but can never correctly express it.

The three of them together, however, form a whole—as is inevitable, according to the laws of emergence and the law of three itself.

And that whole is Conscience.

Deeply linked to essence, this particular property is the emergent property of the interaction of Faith,  Hope, and Love which produces a fourth, whole, new entity. See the chapter "From the Author," pages 1089 — 1091 for Gurdjieff's discourse on the lawful interaction of three such properties in man to produce a fourth.

 We know we are very close to the bone here, because Ashiata Shiemash himself referred to it as "that being impulse on which, in general, the whole psyche of beings of a three brain system is based." It is, in other words, closely related, or coincident, to essence—which, as previous essays have demonstrated, is much closer to vibrations from higher levels than personality, and whose properties belong to the law of three, rather than the law of seven. The relationship between essence and conscience cannot be understated, as understanding Gurdjieff's premises about the repair of man's psyche greatly depends on it.

Conscience represents a unifying factor in man's psyche; its essential nature as the product of the three higher sacred impulses of Faith, Love, and Hope, actually gives it a primacy of place over them, because it represents a superior opportunity to any one of them, taken alone. As such — we might say, as luck would have it — this is the one part of man's psyche that was not permanently damaged. It is buried in our subconscious Being; located, in other words, in the same place as our essence, which is also buried. Both of these entities bear a strong allegorical relationship to Gurdjieff's numerous comments about a "map of pre-sand Egypt" and the sinking of the continent of Atlantis.  The idea of ancient philosophical schools (and Christianity)  that man has an "essential good" buried in him stems from a longstanding and probably even lawful intuition of this relationship.

The point is that there is something ancient and valuable buried within our Being. The representation in the diagram at the above link visually locates conscience as a concealed entity in the center of the triangle created by the law of three; thus, an esoteric part of our Being. It is intact, or untouched, by outer life; and because it begins and ends that way, being a product of the three sacred impulses (which unfortunately do have to touch outer life) it escaped the degradation they were ultimately exposed to.  It is to man's good fortune that Conscience was doubly insulated: both a higher property, and one not in direct contact with ordinary life.

   Ashiata Shiemash maintained that the function of sacred Conscience had the possibility of passing into the functioning of man's ordinary consciousness. This is a very high work; Conscience can provide the unifying factor which is parenthetically indicated in the passage on Faith, Hope, and Love.

 This particular passage indicates the action of the law of three, in which consciousness occupies "do," or the apex of the triangle, in each case. In other words, Faith, Love, and Hope cannot act sufficiently in man if they are attached to his outer circumstances, and both feeling and the body operate within the context of outer circumstances. Only in their highest expression can they help us.

 Of course, this theoretical discussion of the nature and action of conscience hardly begins to touch on exactly what conscience is or does. It's the action of conscience in a man that matters; and this is a higher principle which it does one little or no good to read about.

Mea culpa, if you wish.

 I respectfully hope you will take good care.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Objects, events, and circumstances

I use the phrase objects, events, circumstances, and conditions so frequently that I thought a little explanation might be in order.

 I'm going to use the enneagram to examine this question.  Click on the link for the related diagram.

First of all, I should make it clear that the enneagram describes a lawful set of conditions that always applies in one way or another to every situation. The nature of the development of the law of octaves, and the individual notes, doesn't change. These are the Conditions (capital "C"): there is a progression in increase of the rate of vibration, and it moves through a distinctive hierarchy of principles, which have been described in numerous earlier essays. The principles are embedded in mythology, found in the yogic chakras, and recounted in Islamic theories of the development of the material world. The commonality between the systems arises from the fact that the enneagram is the underlying structure for all of them. Because it's an objective science, the principles described in the diagram can be applied to almost any situation in order to understand it. And indeed, Gurdjieff made this clear to Ouspensky.

An inadequate understanding of the diagram has rendered contemporary explanations of Gurdjieff's comments obscure; but it need not be this way. There is no doubt that it's possible to understand almost anything if the diagram's basic principles are clear.

 The diagram is always divided into two sections, representing two triads: one on the right, one on the left. The right triad (represented by the numbers 142) represents, paradoxically, a descent— even though what is taking place is actually an increase in the rate of vibration, or an evolution of energy. It is a descent only in the sense that it initially moves away from the absolute, its point of origin.

The left side,  represented by 857, represents a triad of ascent in the sense that it marks a return towards the origin of the energy within the octave.  Roughly speaking, we can say that the right side of the diagram always represents an “earthly” or material quality, and the left side a "heavenly" or spiritual one, although these definitions do undergo intelligible permutations depending on the exact situation.

(I ought to mention here that Gurdjieff's multiplications are all paired triads, each delineating a specific set of relationships. Each set of two triads has its own implications and the two sets taken together require a third factor to reconcile them.)

 Understanding objects, events, and circumstances, we see that they take the place of material, desire, and power on the material side. Logically enough, objects interacting with circumstances create events, mirroring the interaction between materiality, power, and desire as seen in the Path of the Yogi.

 So taken together, we have objects, events, circumstances, and conditions. (I use the term conditions in two ways in this essay; one, to describe the overall lawful Conditions [upper case] of the law of octaves, and in the second case, conditionally, to describe only the right side of the octave and the material nature of its conditions [lower case]. I know it's a little confusing... sorry.)

The right side of the diagram, its interactions and constraints, basically define everything we can know of ordinary life. One conscious shock applies here; it requires conscious effort. Interestingly enough, we see that the shock plays its role a bit differently than what one might have expected: objects and circumstances cannot be linked to events without the conscious shock; without the shock, there is no path created to insight, or wisdom (8), which might advance things.  In a certain sense, the energy “travels backwards” here, the shock  creating the conditions that make the passage from 4 to 2 possible. And indeed, that understanding applies over and over again in every version of this diagram, although it is rarely mentioned. (It has been by some few, including, as I somewhat dimly recall (it was a long time ago) by Nicoll.) There are a number of things indicated by this apparently strange property of "energy reversal," but I don't have time to go over them in this essay.

Men are generally locked into a trap between objects and circumstances, because of the inability to apply the shock in this place. So people get "stuck" in material reality: Objects, events, and circumstances keep interacting over and over again, and little or no insight is gained. It's like a pinball stuck between three bumpers of extremely low point yields.

 If insight is gained, however, attitude can be enlisted to help engage change, and for that, sacrifice is necessary. One of the reasons that Jeanne de Salzmann said that the only thing we could change was our attitude is because it is the single element in this particular evolution of energy which we are actually able to influence. Insight comes from a higher level; objects, events, and circumstances are a given; and sacrifice is a requirement.

Attitude furthermore occupies the critical point of the heart chakra: Sol, the note of the sun. It's the place of the hero; and it embodies the essential Buddhist principle of right attitude.

 The left side of the diagram recapitulates, in its essence, actions—that is to say, there is an involuntary and static character to the right side of the diagram, and a voluntary and dynamic character to the left side. These are of course gross generalizations, because there is certainly a dynamism to the right side, the only problem being that it is a self-reflexive and unyielding dynamism that produces a form of masturbation in the material world. That is to say, it accurately describes our society and our behavior for the most part.

All of the conditions on the right side of the diagram must ultimately be transcended by invoking the actions on the left side; but transcendence here is a form of incorporation, not dismissal.

 The role of the conscious shocks is the same in this version of the diagram as it is in every other version: the first shock, conscious labor, involves the formation of the equivalent of a real “I;” in this case, responsibility. The second shock involves, as always, surrender, that is to say, a sacrifice above all of one's attitudes.

No one wants to sacrifice their attitudes. This is the essential problem in a nutshell. Even if a man or woman being completes the first side of this octave, the resistance to the second side is enormous. This is, in the larger sense,  what Gurdjieff meant when he said,

"“But in order to be able to attain this or at least begin to attain it, a man must die, that is, he must free himself from a thousand petty attachments and identifications which hold him in the position in which he is. He is attached to everything in his life, attached to his imagination, attached to his stupidity, attached even to his sufferings, possibly to his sufferings more than to anything else. He must free himself from this attachment."
In Search Of the Miraculous, p. 218.

Incidentally, for interested readers, this chapter also contains the Sufi tale illustrated in my drawing of the magician's sheep.

 I respectfully hope you will take good care.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The Three Essential Truths, Part IV

 The third essential Truth comes in the form of a prayer.

 Lord, I call to thee from the depths of my iniquity. I have not delivered myself sufficiently unto thee; I know not how.

 The prayer returns us to an awareness of our essential condition of unknowing. Even manifest as vessels for receiving the names of God, and manifest as a unique and particular name of God in ourselves, we do not know the way home. The completion of the cycle of our lives, the Path of the Yogi, and the octave of human development, can only be accomplished through a complete surrender. At the end of life itself, this process is called death. This is the moment in which all of creation must return to its origin, willingly or unwillingly.

 Yet a willing return is what is needed; and although death does the job for everyone, death is not enough.  One might even call it the lazy man's way out. We should not let death do our work for us.

The process of inner development is aimed at creating a state that will provide a willing return. We need to come to the door and knock on it so that it will be opened; but we don't know how to get to the door. The essential condition of separation is a condition of unknowing, and only a call for help issued to a higher force can help us to find our way back.

Under ordinary circumstances in a man or woman, the ego won't bother making such calls, because it firmly and only believes in itself. Yet even if the ego were extinguished, we would still be lost. Something more than an ego is required; there has to be an essential motive force that issues the call to prayer, and yet we don't know what that is. Even the most powerful man is not yet God, or anything close to God; only the higher influence of the Father, the influence of a divine or higher energy, can help bring us back to the source of our arising. And only understanding—knowing, not believing in—this influence can bring us what is needed.

 To discover this, and admit our absolute helplessness, is an entry into the highest of mysteries. As ourselves, we are not servants; because everything that we are doing clings, in the end, to something that refuses to serve.  If we extinguish 99.99% of what believes it can do in us, the other .01% still believes it can do, and as long as there is even that much there, all of us still believes it can do, because the condition of understanding one cannot do must be absolute, not relative.

If we see ourselves fully, ultimately, we see this; and we see that as we are, no matter how high we reach, we cannot reach high enough.

Help is necessary.

Hence the Hesychast's prayer, Lord have Mercy. This particular prayer encapsulates all of the action that is necessary, very little of which comes from us. The only action we engage in is supplication; and only to the extent that we lose ourselves completely in supplication do we stand the chance of gaining anything, because as we are, in ourselves, every scrap we cling to is a complete refusal, because we are still conditional.

This has to be seen over and over again, and in every instance where a higher energy helps us to see what we are, the anguish increases. For the path to the Lord, though the Mercy of the Lord fills us with joy at all times on it, is a path of anguish. Only by seeing exactly what we are, wholly seeing what we are, organically seeing what we are—before the intellect knows what we are, seeing what we are—can we make ourselves available to what is necessary.

 This is not the seeing of the mind. It is a seeing of the soul, the soul looking into the soul, the soul knowing the soul.

And there is one thing that is certain. We don't want to see what we are.

The Lord does have Mercy, because the Lord has seen to it that this unutterable anguish has a sweetness beyond compare. So the path has been laid out in front of us not as a trial, but as a gift. This can't be known by studying theories; it can only be known by entering the mysteries. It can only be known through experience, and never through intellect alone. This doesn't mean that we discard our intelligence; but it becomes a servant, rather than the Lord that it thinks it is.

  In the end, all the points of work lead towards this prayer. No matter what direction one takes, the action of intentional suffering must become real, and it is embodied in the words Lord have Mercy.

There are works that make other presumptions, and paths that believe there are other directions; but those are not this path.

 I respectfully hope you will take good care.

Monday, September 17, 2012

There's a bonus post on blessings at the Doremishock blog today.

The Three Essential Truths, Part III

The second of the three essential Truths.

 There is no I, there is only Truth. The way to the Truth is through the heart.

 This truth describes the path of the Yogi.

The word "Yogi" indicates any spiritual seeker, not one on a specific path. Despite all the platitudes to the contrary, there is actually only one path, as described by the enneagram. Each path is inevitably no more than a variation of this progression, because nothing can deviate from a requirement to proceed according to the law of octaves.

As al Arabi puts it,

"If things are as we have decided, know that you are an imagination, as is all that you regard as other than yourself an imagination. All [relative] existence is an imagination within an imagination, the only Reality being God, as Self and the Essence, not in respect of His Names." (From The Wisdom of Light in the Word of Joseph, The Bezels of Wisdom, Ibn’ Al Arabi, translation by R.W.J Austin, 1980, Paulist Press)

Readers will undoubtedly note the striking similarities between this passage, Meister Eckhart, and various Buddhist and Yogic doctrines. Al Arabi reached this conclusion through an enlightenment experience, not because of other cultural or philosophical influences.

 The second Truth may appear to be about the heart, but it's actually about the mind, which must be correctly prepared in order to approach the work of the heart.

 The second essential truth embodies a contradiction which is a direct reflection of the contradiction between transcendence and immanence as described by Ibn al Arabi in The Bezels of Wisdom. The transcendent and the immanent are both part of the Reality; yet they are apparently contradictory. On the right side of the path of the Yogi, the side of incarnation and material development, the transcendent surrenders itself in order to create the immanent. God, in other words, becomes man, but only in the coarsest sense of material man (Gurdjieff's "man," in quotation marks.) This is the side of personality, and represents the descent of God into what we might call Hell, that is, the material world. One might represent it as such because it is a descending action into the material, a separation of God from God.

So in creating the universe, God actually separates Himself from Himself. This creates the illusion of "I," as iterated in the infinite names of God, and directly manifest in the comprehensive arisings of the material world. (Objects, events, circumstances and conditions.)

The consequences of manifestation in the material create an inexorable set of events.

Desire (Jeanne de Salzmann's nostalgia for Being) arises. From the beginning, it understands that it is separated from the Father. It must engage in conscious labor to acquire the power for Being, that is, what Gurdjieff would have called conscious direction. Without this conscious direction, all of the immense energies unleashed by creation are trapped in a self- reflexive  and essentially egoistic universe. Only real Being (Real I,  as Gurdjieff referred to it) can provide the direction back towards the Father, the creative principle. And this can only be achieved through purification, wisdom, and, ultimately, intentional suffering, in which what we believe is "I" must be surrendered back to its source.

Adepts who have had a taste of what this is like will know that it is death. But this is not death the way I fear it; it's a quite different kind of thing.

 So. There is only Truth. This is what Al Arabi calls the Reality, and I think he does an admirable job of expounding the aspects and virtues of this fact in exhaustive detail.

But why is the way to the Truth "through the heart?"

 The note Sol on the enneagram represents both the sun and the heart chakra. In Gurdjieff's system, it constitutes the entry of real (feeling) emotion into the inner work of a man, and it also represents the beginning of an awareness of Christ—that is, help from above—which is sent, paradoxically, not in the form of the hero (who also occupies this particular note) but in the form of suffering. This note is the passageway—the entry—into what we might call the conscious side of the enneagram, the acsneding or evolutionary (spiritual) action, as opposed to the descending (carnal) action.

 Gurdjieff made it quite clear to Ouspensky and his other pupils that nothing real in terms of work and a man could begin before real emotion entered.  If the heart does not open—the ultimate aim of Christian Hesychasm,  compassionate  Buddhism, Sufic Islam, and Bhakti Yoga— no further progress can be achieved. Once the heart is open—once it can accept its condition, which is the Christian equivalent of the confession of sin—purification can be undertaken.  (The Buddhist emphasis on compassion equally reflects this understanding.)

But a heart that isn't open can't be purified.

 The left side of the diagram on the path of the Yogi is the path of the essence. Gurdjieff indicated that personality needed to be strong and healthy in order to feed essence; and indeed, we see this progression in the transition between the two sides of the diagram. His system was a reflection of esoteric understandings shared by Islam, Judaeo-Christianity, Hinduism, and Buddhism.

As he advised his students, in the end, there is truly only one Way, and there can be no disagreement on it from a certain level.

 So the second essential truth is not just a complicated structural meditation on the nature of the universe and the path of the Yogi; it's a mystery that has to be experienced through the intentional creation, and then the intentional surrender, of the "I." An adept has to undergo a recapitulation of the process of universal creation:  they must create a real "I" in themself, and then, in the face of this action—which already requires a supreme effort, for which they are poorly equipped—see and agree with their own nothingness.

One must climb the mountain in order see that there is no mountain.

 All of this is, to be sure, rather technical in nature, and probably not of much direct practical value in a personal search to open the heart.

But before one enters a search for wordless contemplation and nameless places within, perhaps it helps a bit to know what one is attempting.

The enneagram is the map of "pre-sand Egypt." One can stumble around without a map if one wants to, but there is an alternative.

 I respectfully hope you will take good care.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Three Essential Truths, part II

  One might say that the three essential Truths rule the manifestation of the Law of Three in man's nature. In a certain sense, these three Truths encompass all a human being needs to understand in order to complete their journey in life through the human octave.

The first essential Truth is the following: we are vessels into which the world flows.

Ibn al Arabi explains the situation regarding man thus, in  the very first paragraphs of The Bezels of Wisdom:

For the Reality, he [man] is as the pupil is for the eye through which the act of seeing takes place. Thus he is called insan [meaning both man and pupil], for it is by him that the Reality looks on His creation and bestows the Mercy [of existence] on them.

 In this case, al Arabi refers to God as “the Reality,” adopting an all-encompassing terminology to embrace both the transcendent and immanent nature of God. His formulation is unerring; one can, in fact, determine that all of the following material he expounds must be correct, because he has understood the first and most essential truth, and put it at the very beginning of Bezels.

This particular understanding represents the relationship between the notes Do and Re on the octave of human development. The whole octave itself it represents ouroboros, the beginning and the end of the relationship between man and God; the creation of the material universe, and the encompassing relationship of purpose between the material universe and God.

 Man—like all of reality, constructed of light—is also the aperture through which light, having emanated from the Godhead, flows back into the Godhead, in a cyclical process described and ruled by the law of octaves.  (Echoing the Christian Nicene Creed, in which the words God from God, light from light, true God from true God are intoned. As Gurdjieff explained to Ouspensky, some portions of the Christian liturgy exactly preserve important esoteric truths; this is one example)

Light, in its initial emanation, is generalized and unfocused. It goes through a successive series of concentrations according to the law of octaves to gain focus. Every manifestation of consciousness is as the iris and retina are to the eye, adjusting themselves to allow the light to be concentrated, reflected, and refined until it can reach a level of vibration appropriate to return to the absolute.  Al Arabi's analogy is perfect, because exactly like the eye, Being must have a portion that is open—a transparent faculty—an active portion with the flexibility of movement, like the iris, which interacts—and a passive element that receives, like the retina—in order to transmit the impressions into the vessel accurately. So when we look at the action of seeing in more detail, we discover that there are far more meanings here than meet the eye.

The alchemical process of refinement of lead into gold, although it seems complex and sophisticated, is actually a rather crude analogy for this refinement of light, which actually takes place using a much finer substance, and a much higher rate of vibration, than the coarse material elements the alchemists used as examples.

Light is information, and information is what forms consciousness in an emergent process. So we see that light, having emanated from the absolute, must concentrate itself by flowing into a vessel (man) who acts as a crucible for the refinement, or increase in the rate of vibration, of the light until it attains a rate of vibration appropriate to its origin, at which point it can return.

In that process, the light acquires information, knowledge, and, ultimately, wisdom about what it has encountered, which is returned to the Reality to increase its Being and knowing of itself.

 In order to complete this process, several shocks are necessary. It doesn't take place automatically; effort and participation on behalf of the organ (eye, and "I") are necessary in order to increase the rate of vibration, receive the impressions, concentrate them, refine them, and move them onwards in this cyclical process.

This highly theoretical premise relates, nonetheless, exactly to the act of living. As vessels into which the world flows, each one of us is a personal representative of the Reality, with a personal responsibility for taking in every fragment of that reality that we encounter and homogenizing it to achieve a uniformity of understanding. So our active presence in relationship to the impressions of our life is essential in performing our task as representatives of the Reality.

 All of the practices of mindfulness and attention we encounter are specifically aimed to serve as the foundation for this task.

 The difficulty with the manifestation of the transcendent as it arrives into material reality is that we identify with it. We believe in material reality without objectivity. Attachment—identification—to material reality prevents the circulation of light in the vessel which is necessary for enter evolution. This is how the first granthi, or knot, affects us. Fundamentally—not intellectually—understanding our nature as a receiver of impressions, rather than an owner of them, is a step on the path to loosening this identification, which ties us to the lowest level of our life in a subjective manner.

 I respectfully hope you will take good care.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Fact, Formulation, Prayer: The Three Essential Truths, Part I

 We are all called to a certain kind of work during the course of our lives. The kind of work that's required is somewhat different for each generation, because conditions change, and the outer form of inner work must change with them.  This is why teachings need to evolve, and new approaches need to arrive; the world is a constantly changing place, where every instant completely re-creates the universe and the cosmos, requiring new and flexible responses.

So we are not in the spiritual work that existed a thousand years ago, or one hundred years ago, or fifty years ago, or even yesterday. We are in today's work.

 Today's work requires an understanding perhaps a bit different than yesterday's understanding.  Yet all work relies on a single understanding common to every era: we need to understand that we have very little understanding.

 In the course of my own intimate efforts,  I've discerned that each of the three centers has a specific Truth, or understanding, related to it. In passing these three truths on exactly as they were given to me, one ought to understand that they form a core, a basis, of approaching this question in a relatively simple way, even though—as we shall see—each one unfolds a very complex set of associations that reveal aspects of inner cosmology we may not contemplate very often—or perhaps at all.

 The three essential truths are as follows.

 We are vessels into which the world flows.

 This is a fact; the truth of the body. The statement is a fact, not a speculation. Understanding this Truth organically changes the relationship to the body.

This first Truth loosens and can ultimately untie the first granthi, or "knot" of illusion, as described traditional yoga teachings.

 There is no "I." There is only Truth. The way to the Truth is through the heart.

 This Truth, the Truth of the mind, is presented as a formulation, which is appropriate to a Truth of the mind. We are trapped in a mind that distinguishes us as "I." This individuation into ego is a fundamentally flawed conception, bearing no actual relationship to the way the universe is ordered. The formulation not only states the actual condition of the cosmos, but also indicates the action necessary to correct the flaw.

Fully understood, this Truth unties the second granthi.

Lord, I call to thee from the depths of my iniquity. I have not delivered myself sufficiently unto thee; I know not how.

 This Truth, the Truth of the emotions, or Truth of the Heart, is presented as a prayer. This is because only submission, surrender, can correct our essentially flawed conception; and only  acknowledgment of our position, combined with energy from a higher level, can help us achieve this action.

Fully understood, this Truth unties the third granthi.

 We have three centers: body, mind, emotion; but we truly don't understand them. We think we understand them, which is already the problem. The thinking presumes to have something in it that it does not in fact have.

In traditional kundalini yoga, it's believed that the three granthis have to be pierced using a higher energy. This action is understood to be both forceful and potentially dangerous, according to yoga tradition. Piercing the knots through force, however—cutting the knots—is not the aim of a modern inner work.  The idea is essentially outdated, if it was ever in date in the first place. Conditions on the planet, and in mankind, have changed since that work originated, and perhaps it was not properly understood to begin with, because cutting the knots is not what needs to be done. They must be loosened, gently, and working on the three truths can help accomplish that.

Each of the three essential truths is a mystery designed, in essence, as a koan for contemplation, a proposition to investigate. The entirety of the teaching as it exists today and ought to be understood is encapsulated in these three simple koans.

Yet they need to be penetrated themselves in a three-centered Way, according to a set of new understandings quite different than our usual ideas about things.

 Over the next three posts, I'll examine each one of these Truths in a bit more detail.

I respectfully hope you will take good care.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Emotions, Impressions, and Memory

Readers will recall that Gurdjieff routinely advised his followers that nothing real could begin to proceed in a man's inner work until emotion participated. Emotion, he maintained, was at a higher level of vibration that intellect or physical (body) responses. Consequently, taking in impressions with the participation of the emotional center, as well as the intellect and the physical body, created a finer kind of food for Being.

 There may consequently be some interest in this recent article from science news about vividness of perception. It turns out that the participation of emotional areas in the brain has, in fact, a very great deal to do with how deeply impressions fall into us, and how clearly they are remembered.

Anyone engaged in a long-term process of inner work will already know this; and, of course, it has  many additional dimensions that are not alluded to in the article. The important point is that Gurdjieff's contentions are once again supported by objective scientific research. Not only that, we may be called to remember that, when he was asked what the results of inner work and the development of man would be, he said, “everything more vivid.”

 What Gurdjieff referred to as sleep is, in fact, a flattening of perception. The failure of more than one center to participate in taking in an impression bulldozes the landscape from both an inner and an outer point of view. A great deal of the tactile and sensate quality of the moment falls by the wayside. What enters us is a dramatically impoverished sense of what is around us and what is happening, along with a consequent loss of understanding. Things don't fall deeply into us; and we don't bother participating. It's enough to get us by, and that's about all we generally do.

I find it interesting that we don't know any better. Our sciences are unable to measure what happens to a man when impressions truly begin to fall into the body in the way that nature intended them to. It lies beyond the reach of instrumentation, which is the only thing science knows how to use. And it certainly raises the question of why a relatively uneducated late 19th/early 20th century man from Armenia knew things which we are only catching up to almost 100 years later, and at that still don't understand as well as he did.

The practice of mindfulness, the practice of Being in the moment, the art of self remembering; all of these concepts and ideas need to be replaced in us by a legitimate organic action. The sensation of that organic action is what's important, not just the idea that it could take place. This requires a consequent investment in the sensation as it arises, an understanding that it exists—which, admittedly, is not something one just snaps one's fingers and achieves—and a willingness to invest in it, to go into it, to support it as it supports us. The work of centers is, after all, not just cooperative—it's reciprocal. One center needs to learn to support the other, to help it, so that the law of reciprocal feeding takes place within us, not just outside us, where its actions and consequences are obvious.

 I've pointed out on a number of occasions that the quality of breathing is intimately connected to the action of sensation. This doesn't, as I hope readers know, mean we should do breathing exercises. But it does explain why all of the conventional yogic chakras are associated with one or another kind of vital breath. That question is worthy of investigation on a practical, as opposed to theoretical, basis.

 I respectfully hope you will take good care.