Tuesday, September 2, 2014
Sensation and Angelic Presence, part IV
It's a point of understanding, among older and senior members of the Gurdjieff Work, that developing a permanent connection to sensation — what I refer to as the organic sense of being — is a function of the development of the astral body. Said development is, of course, a vital initial aim of inner work that Gurdjieff made a serious point of with Ouspensky— and, of course, an important feature in yoga understandings and various derivative new-age teachings.
Although this idea — the idea of the astral body being connected to a permanent, voluntary, and active sensation — may not be familiar to everyone, it is a point of common knowledge within the circle of those Gurdjieffians who have a direct and practical understanding of it.
What hasn't been clearly delineated, so far as I know—and there is surprisingly little discussion on the matter, aside from the hypothesis itself— is that the astral body is, from a practical point of view, connected to the heavenly levels, and most specifically the angelic level of Being. That is, the nature of the astral body is not vague, and its potentials are not unknown—its nature is specific, and its nature and even purpose can be known.
I should explain here that the astral body is actively connected to the physical body through sensation. There is always, of course, a passive connection; but no conscious energy flows through a passive connection. The whole point of what is called "opening" in the Gurdjieff practice is to open the astral channels, that is, the points of sensation, or nadis, that connect to Being to the astral body. The influx of angelic energies that results is, as I have pointed out, an essential support to the action of inner seeing. That, for a living human being, is the function of the astral body; and the reason that the astral body is a temporary stage, not a permanent entity, is because its dual functions of seeing and conducting of an inner inventory are just steps on the path to purification, which is the "body" developed at the next stage in the progression around the enneagram (la, or 7).
Another point that seems to bear further explanation is this idea of seeing in regard to ethics, morality, and so on.
Those who don't understand the principles of Alcoholics Anonymous and who have never been through the 12 steps can't properly understand why this practice is a higher practice, formed from understandings that have deeper esoteric significance. Peggy Flinsch understood this quite well, and spoke about it with me at some length when she found out that I was a sober alcoholic. She had a tremendous respect for AA; her comment to me was that it was a real inner work... unlike, she intimated, the work she saw people undertaking at the Gurdjieff Foundation. She knew that AA is a painful, messy, complicated, emotionally intense life-and-death struggle—not a prim-and-proper circle of "respectable" people sitting around in comfortable parlors with their hands folded neatly in their laps, sagely exchanging platitudes. It has, in a word, intensity: that very quality people so often complain is lacking in their inner work.
One of the most important points of the 12 steps is to conduct a fearless moral inventory. This may seem like a simple thing, but it is in fact the most difficult thing a human being ever undertakes, and it comes only with a willingness to lose all the lying, hiding, obscuring, and covering up which Swedenborg says most of our so-called morality consists of. One has to be willing to look at one's misdeeds straight in the face, ruthlessly, and without any mercy. One submits — one intentionally suffers. And anyone that thinks this just takes place on a superficial level, the same way that ordinary mechanical work and life takes place, has never been an alcoholic or struggled with the despair, the addiction, and the deep sense of wrongdoing that arrives once one starts to become sober. This is work that goes directly into the organic roots of being — and you can't understand it if you haven't done it.
Conducting an inventory, a moral inventory, seeing how I am, is impossible without a tremendous struggle and an enormous amount of suffering. The energy of sensation, angelic energy, and a connection to the astral level brings the kind of support that is necessary; without it, attempting to conduct a moral inventory and bring what is needed out into the light of day where it can be seen is nearly impossible. This is because we hide everything. We spend our entire lives lying to ourselves at hiding what we actually are. This is, of course, exactly what Gurdjieff said about us; and Swedenborg points out that a man needs to face this mercilessly during his life, because if he doesn't deal with it while he is alive, it will be impossible to hide it after dies.
If you want to think about why we do inner work, this should be contemplated carefully and with a great deal of attention and thought.