Painting by William Adie
In In Search of the Miraculous, Gurdjieff tells P. D. Ouspensky a good deal about the nature of the astral body; and some of it seems a bit puzzling.
Why, for example, is the astral body not "immortal," if it represents a higher level of development?
There's a definite explanation for this; it follows on certain definable lawful conditions. But before we go on, read the excerpted material at the above link.
As was explained in a previous post, the four being-bodies in man actually represent, in their own right, an octave of their own; and that octave lawfully recapitulates all the exact same principles embedded in all octaves. As such, each being-body in man incorporates (embodies) a set of notes; but because each being-body is acquired by the completion of two triads, each being body represents not one, but two notes on the higher octave of being-bodies.
This brings us to the question of which notes the astral body represents; and, as can be seen in the original diagram of the being-body octave, the astral body represents the notes mi and fa.
Mi occupies the position of desire, or emotion, and completing the first triad of the astral body—which is the physical, or natural, that is, "default" or given condition of the astral body—represents the motive note desire in the larger octave. The second triad represents fa, the note marking the development of power. Readers will note that a shock of conscious labor, or Grace, is necessary here in order for these two notes to reconcile and pass to sol.
Passage to sol represents the beginning of the triad that belongs to the causal body, and the emergence of true Being in the higher bodies. This demonstrates an important principle: the development of Being, as we can understand it, is lawfully regulated by its own octave, and there are a number of levels of Being—exactly as Gurdjieff explained to Ouspensky.
In each case, however, real Being is only attained at the note sol of the octave; and this essential principle remains consistent across the entire range of ordinate and subordinate octaves. The reason for this, in general terms, is that it's not until an octave reaches this note that it comes under higher influences and begins an ascent, rather than the re-ordering and integration of the descending forces, which is the work that the first triad is always lawfully engaged in.
The astral body is unable to acquire permanent Being relative to the "master octave" of the being bodies because of the notes it occupies; so, you see, there is a specific reason that Gurdjieff made his remarks to Ouspensky. Thus, while the development of the astral body can remain a "goal" for the yogi— and indeed, it's generally agreed upon in the Gurdjieff work, this is our initial "goal" (even though we also insist, somewhat ironically and perhaps even cynically, that we should not work for results)—it is not enough, that is, development of the astral body is just a first step in the development of Being.
Those who get "caught" in the infatuations of the astral body and its various interesting paranormal abilities may fail to understand the progression that leads to sol, which involves a new kind of submission and actually giving up what has been attained by acquisition of the astral body—a requirement Gurdjieff alluded to allegorically in his remarks to Ouspensky, which have always been interpreted as a reference to outer work.
In fact this passage specifically lays out the requirement for this step on the path. The "group" of people referred to in this passage are the inner group working within man; Ibn Arabi's Inner Kingdom. And understanding the nature of this inner group is, in the end, vitally more important than any work in outer groups with other individuals.
The acquisition of Being thus acquires a new dimension; and I'll discuss that a bit more in the next essay.
May your soul be filled with light.