Thursday, February 5, 2015

Emanations and suffering, part I

From The Temptation of St. Anthony, Hieronymus Bosch

It’s generally well known in the Gurdjieff work that inner work is intended for the growth of the astral body. 

This idea is, nonetheless, a largely theoretical concept for most people; and when they approach it, it’s usually understood from the point of view of Yoga terms, which is the source from which the majority of westerners seem to get their information.  the term was used in the Western world as early as the mid-1600s (cit. OED) but popularized largely by Mme. Blavatsky and the Theosophists, sources Gurdjieff  ultimately discredited,  but only after, according to him, long study.

Gurdjieff’s teachings on the matter as we encounter them in the literature were complex, intellectual, and difficult. It’s only when we encounter practical aspects of his teaching through material such as the wartime transcripts, or Mme. de Salzmann’s notes (The Reality of Being) that we begin to find some practical material about it; and even then it doesn’t seem to connect quite so clearly to the theory. 

One might not, for example, understand that the organic sense of Being is directly connected to the development of the astral body.

The human being, as he or she is, is unable to come under emanations any higher than those of the moon and—under specific but constantly changing circumstances—other planets. The (now, I think,  pseudo-) science of astrology was originally developed by esoteric schools to better understand this, but eventually became a set of superstitions ruled by the subjective factors of a person’s exact birth place and time, rather than (as it should be) their level of inner development, which ultimately determines every possibility.

 Unlike our ordinary earthly body, the astral body is capable of coming under solar influences. Without these influences, further spiritual development is more or less impossible, because help from above is required, and for this reason, the astral body is essential to a progression in inner work. 

Few develop any solid, durable connections to the astral body during a lifetime, although it isn’t unusual to develop ephemeral connections to the nascent entity. To add to the confusion over this inner entity, new age philosophies have taken hindu superstitions about it and corrupted them still more, until the astral body becomes a wonderful cosmic thing which fills a soul with wonder, beauty and a profound set of magical realizations. Above all, perhaps, hovers the mistaken perception that investment in the astral level will free a man or woman from the crass material level of pain and suffering. [Discrediting this perception, which in the Christian world had a root in Gnostic practices of early Christianity (who rather aggressively eschewed the material in favor of the energetic and spiritual), began early on with the establishment of orthodoxy in the Christian church.]

All of this is deeply mistaken; it does represent things that can happen, but all of them are distractions and aberrations of one kind or another.

The astral body has, in the end, only one major purpose.  That purpose, which this series of essays examines, is deeply and irrevocably connected with suffering.

As we learn from Gurdjieff’s (and Dante’s) Purgatory, a very great deal of suffering is necessary in the development of the soul— a doctrinal position that is indeed consistent with both Christian and Buddhist theology. The difference between conventional theologies and Gurdjieff’s understanding (which is, based on my own experience, exactly correct) is that suffering must extend not just to one’s organic lifetime, but into the lifetimes that follow… and into the being-bodies, as Gurdjieff called them, which support those lifetimes.


1 comment:

  1. thank you lee, v helpful. I didn't realise that G was giving injections of narcotics (heroin?) to the rope group...
    Solano quotes Gurdjieff saying:

    ‘After a certain age this effort [his teaching] is very difficult and often impossible. There is an artificial aid by means of physico-chemical substance… for example a substance can be injected which will furnish artificial help for prayer … If the effort and the amount of the chemical are not balanced, it becomes a dangerous poison for the organism.’ (In January, 1936, p. 18).
    ‘Notes taken by Solita Solano from October 1935 – April 1939 in Paris, with additional notes about Gurdjieff’s visit to New York in 1948
    (Janet Flanner and Solita Solano Papers, Library of Congress, folder 6 box 6).

    There are twenty-three direct references to piqures (injections) and courses of injections that Gurdjieff gave Solano and other members of the Rope group. He gave inner exercises for them to do related to the injections.


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