Monday, September 17, 2012
The Three Essential Truths, Part III
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.