Tuesday, December 10, 2013
What comes in the night
In In Search of the Miraculous, Gurdjieff tells Ouspensky that day and night are inhalation and exhalation.
True to type, Ouspensky immediately begins to do maths about the problem; while his reaction is almost amusing, it obscures an interesting point.
What Gurdjieff was referring to here is the question of the way that impressions are processed. During waking hours, impressions— the third kind of being-food — are "inhaled;" and the taking in of impressions is identical, in its own right, to the inhalation of air, the second kind of being-food.
Food, once it is taken into the organism, goes to assist in the formation of various substances that build structures for the organisms function. Impressions serve exactly the same role, but they built structures for the function of the spirit, or the soul. They are inhaled during waking hours; and they are exhaled in sleep. It's easy enough, perhaps, to intuit the meaning of the inhalation; this, after all, involves the taking in of impressions, which can fall into shallower or deeper parts of the body, as we know.
The question of the exhalation is a different one. What takes place here is that impressions are "exhaled" from the body; but what does this mean? It's easy to understand the inward flow of impressions, but in what way could they flow outwardly while one is asleep?
Furthermore, the idea that night is exhalation applies on not just an organic level, but a planetary level. So there is a process taking place here that is fractal, that is, it mirrors itself on many levels. We can extrapolate from this and presume that there is also a galactic inhalation and exhalation, although the nature of that may not be quite clear because of scale.
In any event, it's tempting to think that dreams have something to do with the exhalation of impressions; yet I think this is too facile and obvious an interpretation. More likely, I think, is the idea that impressions, when they are exhaled, are returned to the divine source from which all of being and creation arises. That is to say, human beings collect impressions during the day; and when they enter the passive state of sleep, the outward flow of their previously ingested impressions is directed towards a higher level.
This organic explanation of the process, which almost certainly would have appealed to Swedenborg, who definitely understood that impressions are a form of breathing, which he called spiritual breathing. This otherwise unique observation (how many other teachings have presented it?) underscores the shared identity of Gurdjieffian and Swedenborgian cosmology, religious philosophy, and science.
There is another important point regarding the nature of the exchange of substances between the astral, or cosmological, levels and the human being at night. While it has always been the fashion, in metaphysical circles, to ascribe dreams to travel on the astral plane, they attract us with colorful pictures of the subconscious and its complex machinery, without appreciating the nature of spiritual opening at night.
At the time the human organism opens at night for the outflow of impressions, the outward breath, to be returned to heaven, there is an aperture opened within Being. And it's at these times during the night that a truly higher energy can flow inward to sustain Being.
There are, of course, the times when one is open to this energy during the day; and indeed, before any permanent change can take place, one needs to open to receive what Jeanne de Salzmann called the "big" energy, as recounted by Ravi Ravindra in Heart without Measure. Once that takes place, the aperture that allows for the food of the inward flow to take place on a regular basis has been permanently opened. The degree of dilation varies, but the inward flow is perpetual.
This is all part of the breathing of the universe which we are called on to participate in.