Stone, Confucian Temple, Shanghai
Photo by the author
This post marks the ninth year since I began publishing this blog.
Law on Earth
Law on Earth
The cosmological implications of Love and Law are beautiful and far-reaching; yet we find ourselves constrained on this level within a set of laws that are for the most part nowhere near as pretty. They appear to be quite rigid, unforgiving, and even mechanical, uncaring, and unmindful.
A lot of what we see of law from our level appears to be reflexive and automatic. Some of it even appears to be punitive. For example, even though gravity itself arises from a quantum expression of Love and Perfection, which forever seeks to draw itself back itself and gather more force of Love, when we fall down and break our bones, gravity does not seem loving or friendly. It’s impersonal. Things that are impersonal (or, as Mr. Gurdjieff called them, objective) are often upsetting to us, generally speaking. At least they are to me — more highly evolved beings who have transcended their ego may feel differently. If you can, be my guest.
In any event, the constraint of law is inexorable on our level, because certain things simply must be, no matter what, if a ladder is to have rungs and one is to be able to climb it. The rungs, for example, need to be a certain distance apart from one another, and that distance quite certainly ought to be consistent — hence the law of octaves. Every position in the hierarchy has to have its requirements and consequences for failure to meet them, that is, lawful actions determine the course of events acting on objects according to circumstances and conditions. (This is why I refer to the environment we inhabit as one of objects, events, circumstances, and conditions. It's another way of saying we are constrained by law.)
The Perfection — God (please be patient with me, I just like to keep reminding people that these are the same thing) has an essential, eternally (outside time) loving wish that we return to it and experience the Perfection directly — that is, God wants all of His creation to return to Him so that we can be reunited. He is a truly loving Father in this regard.
Unfortunately, the consequences of material creation basically forbid that, so there is what one might call an internal separation, leading to the Sorrow of God. Gurdjieff attempted to paint a picture of this eternal separation in his book, Beelzebub's Tales to His Grandson, in the chapter The Holy Planet Purgatory. It depicts a place subject to all of the laws, where every law, so to speak, save the last one has been transcended.
That last law is the same law that Ibn al Arabi cited when he said that there is a lawful and permanent separation between material creation and, as he called it, The Reality. (i.e., the same entity as my Perfection.) The Holy Planet Purgatory presents an impossibly loving, impossibly beautiful, and infinitely merciful environment created for souls who reach the final stage and realize there is no final way home.
The chapter is accompanied with some unusually complex and detailed yogic insights into the nature of law both in general and on our level ; without getting into details (which would lead into many more necessarily boring pages of commentary and text) we can summarize by pointing out that Gurdjieff is saying (as he repeats often throughout the book) the constraints of law determine everything on the material level, which is, roughly speaking, “earth,” that is, planetary conditions on every planet ranging from the moon all the way up to the Holy Planet Purgatory.
Gurdjieff calls these the “laws of world creation and world maintenance,” and, although he spendt a great deal of time defining them numerically to Ouspensky (see In Search of the Miraculous) he told Bennett that one cannot ultimately know these laws through “mathematik” (see Idiots in Paris; and this comment will eventually lead us to part III, Law Within Practice.)
Law reflects a supreme intelligence in its order; and that supreme intelligence is perfectly reflected and accurately defined by all of the natural interactions on this level. That is to say, the marvelous results of evolution on the planet, and the extraordinary consequences of chemistry (leading to the crystalline forms that not only our minerals, but also the DNA molecule) are none of them accidental in the least. Accident implies (but does not necessarily require) a lack of intelligence—yet nature is supremely intelligent.
Let’s examine that, because it relates to the nature of law itself. The expression of intelligence is mechanically consequential; that is, the rules follow one another without the apparent action of intelligence; but the intelligence is inherent and displayed in the arrangement of the rules themselves, not their outward actions.
One can view it this way: a human being designs and makes computers. The computers are nothing more than machines which execute instructions (a mechanically consequential expression of intelligence) but the computer can only do this because of a pre-existing intelligence which has formed the laws (physical conditions, rules, and constraints) within which it operates. That is to say, before the mechanical operations of the computer can take place, an agency (extraneous and superior acting operative agent) has laid out the conditions under which the computer is built and operates.
On the level of earth those conditions are referred to as natural law; and the sciences have for generations engaged in an argument about whether or not God exists, that is, whether or not an agency above and beyond the laws of nature has designed those laws. Swedenborg, one of the consummate scientists of his own age, was adamant in his insistence that those who believe in nothing more than natural law have completely failed to grasp the nature of things. His arguments on this subject are not just compelling, they are entirely accurate and true; but one has to understand enough in order to grasp them, and this is precisely where many in the sciences are lacking. A priest is far more likely to understand him than any chemist.
Random laws, which is what atheism would have us believe in, cannot produce random results. Lawful action, on our level, is not in any way random; all we have learned of it demonstrates inherent predictability, which is in fact (and quite ironically, when you thin k about it) what all of the scientific method is based on. Experiments must be reproducible. My own conclusion here is that since law is not random, its genesis cannot be random either.
On the level of earth (materiality), Love constrains lawful action to operate within the parameters defined by the limits of cause and effect. Causality proceeds from the requirement that all elements of the Perfection, no matter how many “atoms” (irreducible particles, as measured by levels) they break down into, must completely retain the wholeness from which they were birthed. Hence quantum entanglement (see my related essay Into the Mind of God) and all other reciprocal symmetries and asymmetries within material creation. Information (the inherent nature of the Perfection, which is the sum of all information, both known and unknown, manifest and unmanifest) cannot be destroyed.
The preservation of information is, in a certain sense, the ultimate lawful action, since it is essentially inviolable. That which is of God cannot be destroyed or corrupted because it is, in its nature, eternal and perfect. Treasure “laid up in heaven” is inner understanding connected to this inviolable source. Nature has had to do some apparently impossible things (quantum entanglement being the best example) in order to comply with this law; and the places where those unique and remarkable phenomena arise (another example are the event horizons of singularities) are the locations where law comes closest to touching the Perfection.
Inevitably, they lead to mystery.
Lee van Laer is a senior editor at Parabola Magazine.