Wednesday, December 19, 2012

What is the soul?

 Gurdjieff talked about the various different Being-bodies human beings can form.  The religions generally speak of a single soul; Gurdjieff talked about three different higher being bodies.

The three higher being bodies correspond, taken as a whole, to the three lower centers. These are the  astral (physical), emotional, and mental bodies.

The reason that this may seem to contradict the teaching about a single soul is that the "single soul" is formed of all three Being-bodies on the higher level, that is, it has a three-centered being that mirrors three-centered Being on this level. Swedenborg, in his discussion of levels (Divine Love and Wisdom), describes this situation in quite accurate detail, though in terms somewhat different than Gurdjieff's. Properly understood, it represents the same concept, just presented in terms the Christians of his era would be more familiar with. The lower and higher levels share a structural identity; a fact that's quite obvious, once realized—and, furthermore, in exact conformity with law, wherein the lower is a fractal iteration of the higher.

  From various descriptions, one might mistakenly assume that such higher Being-bodies are formed progressively, that is, one must follow on another. This isn't the case, any more than one has to have intellect "before" one has emotions, for example. These being-bodies are separate but related entities that undergo formation simultaneously to one another, creating, in their totality, the higher Self, or soul — and Gurdjieff's system is designed to work on harmoniously forming all three of these being bodies in a balanced manner, at the same time.

It should be noted by readers that all people do, in fact, have souls of this kind — but they are formed in different ways, according to the conduct of the individual. When Gurdjieff told his followers that men do not generally have souls, he did so simply to spur them to make greater efforts. He knew that all men have souls; anyone with his level of understanding knows this. It's a question of the quality of the soul.

 All of one's inner work and outer life, in combination and conjunction, is what forms the higher being bodies. The entire expression of impressions within a human being during the course of their life — all of the outer and inner impressions we take in, from sights of trees or animals, and the feelings they evoke in us, for example — is collected in the vessel (kunda) of the body, which is simply a physical vehicle for the concentration of these forces.  Each of these impressions is a thread. The entire experience of life, in every instance of its variety, ultimately forms the tapestry, the fabric, of the higher being bodies. Life itself, and the consequent impressions — remember, everything is an impression — form the soul on this loom (tantra) of experience.

Things can come into the soul; but nothing leaves. Everything that one encounters in life, everything that one does, every thought one has, every object one picks up and the impressions that ensue — all of this becomes a part of the whole. It is a one-way trip inward, up until death, when everything is emitted into the next level at one time.

  During life, the inner whole ought to be three-centered—that is, the threads that connect the lower to the higher body ought to properly conduct physical, emotional, and intellectual material to the corresponding forming parts of the three higher being bodies. We are, in other words, made of many different threads — a countless number of them, in fact — which connect to these parts that reside in the higher levels of Being. Each impression forms a new thread.

If the energetic forces in a human being are flowing properly, there will be a steady and perhaps even uninterrupted stream of these impressions flowing into the higher centers. This experience is very distinctive, and if it begins, it's recognizable; not from the outside, where it may not be apparent at all that a human being is living in this way, but on the inside, where the sensation of the Self changes irrevocably.

 Students of the path should take note, because one is ultimately responsible for everything. All of the ideas connected to karma and sin reflect back on the basic premises above. We own what we acquire through impressions; it forms what we take with us after death; and nothing can be expunged. The Egyptians represented this visually in the book of the dead, where the contents of the soul (represented by the heart) is weighed against a feather. The heart also represents, overall, one's intentions. Hence the emphasis on intentionality, a.k.a. mindfulness.

 All of the religious discussions and images associated with these ideas are, to one degree or another, accurate; but they seem to be abstractions to us. We do not understand that we are at every moment, within our work, engaged in the formation of this entity called the soul. Every single instance of Being is recorded; and all of them are measured.  Even in this present moment, those threads act as these words are read. The oddest thing about all of this is that we don't realize this is taking place. This is, perhaps, the true meaning of the saying that we are asleep.

  The higher parts of ourselves are all around us, at all times; in a certain sense, we are living with them at all times, and every instance of life is an instance of the life of the soul. Sensate or in sensate, we dwell at all moments within the eternal consequences of our Being.

 The question is whether or not we want to take responsibility for it.

May your soul be filled with light.

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