Saturday, November 24, 2012

The Two Purgatories, and Reincarnation

Walking the dog today, I was musing about the question of reincarnation, and it suddenly struck me that Gurdjieff  indirectly revealed a great deal about his belief in this principle when he spoke about the Holy Planet Purgatory.

Pondering this tendril, a few other things became apparent. I'll share them with you.

 Long before he gives us any details about this extraordinary cosmological location, he indicates that some terrestrial initiates are resident on this planet. These two individuals, Poundoliro and Sensimiriniko, are indubitably human as he presents them to us at the beginning of chapter 27. If they have some continued physical existence anywhere, the only way that we can understand this is through the principle of reincarnation; humans, after all, invariably die.  And since the holy planet Purgatory is distinctly cast as a physical location, in which material things exist, we must presume that if they inhabit it, they are inhabiting it in bodies. We can subscribe to this logic without taking an excursion into the obvious and not-so-obvious allegorical meanings of this chapter. The point is that it does give an indication that Gurdjieff did indeed believe in reincarnation.

The existence of the Holy Planet Purgatory itself underscores that belief. Its very existence implies the requirement of repeated lifetimes in order to purify one's highest being parts to a sufficient degree to reunite with the Most Holy Sun Absolute.

Lest some may argue that the highest parts of being bodies are somehow not incarnate in later iterations of their Being, let us cite the elaborate description of the holy planet Purgatory, which is populated with all manner of wondrous features familiar enough to us to require bodies to interact with them. By the time he bestows platforms upon them to fly around on at the end of the passage, I think we can dispense with any assertions that these purgatorial denizens are disembodied energies of one kind or another. It's a physical place, and the beings in it are in physical bodies. No less so than Dante's inhabitants of purgatory are.

 One major difference between the two Purgatories, of course, is that Gurdjieff's Purgatory is a very nice place, with people suffering terribly. Dante's Purgatory has far less appealing features; the suffering takes place far more outwardly, not inwardly, and has distinct outward causes. They have rocks on top of them. And so on. No one bothers piling rocks on the inhabitants of Gurdjieff's Purgatory; things are already bad enough there with the inhabitants just being who they are. That's what they have to suffer.

This is the whole point of the difference between the two: Gurdjieff's Purgatory is a place where one suffers inwardly, that is, intentionally, in the midst of abundance and beauty. The abundance and beauty may appear to serve as a factor to alleviate the suffering of the inhabitants; but it's really a device meant to indicate how very inward their suffering is.

This essential difference is quite important to understand. When Gurdjieff spoke of intentional suffering, it was an inward action, not anything that interacted with the outward.

This brings us—albeit excursively—to the fundamental cosmological premise that incarnation is a requirement for any creature or being that has not fully reunited with God. The consequences of material existence are lawful and inevitable, as all of Gurdjieff's cosmology — as well as Ibn al Arabi's — indicate. This is, incidentally, firmly tied into yogic understandings of the enneagram.

 Well then, my readers. Despite Gurdjieff's dismissive remarks on the subject at various times over the course of his checkered career, he appears to have built the premise deep into the infrastructure of his magnum opus; a place from which it cannot be easily extracted.

 All of this; and then an anecdote.

I happen to know someone who knew Gurdjieff personally; now deceased. But they told me that they were once in the room when someone asked him whether reincarnation was real.

"Something like that," he replied. " Is difficult to explain exactly. But true."

I respectfully hope you will take good care.

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