It is very early morning. I so often find that this is the best time for private work.
Yesterday I learned that my first cousin Chris van Laer died a few days ago. He was tragically estranged from the family, so we only learned of it several days after the fact.
I am left with the wish that he may find the rest that he could not find in this lifetime.
The circumstances have led me to a weekend contemplation of our place, and what we are. Of course, I always think of such things every day; yet it was far deeper yesterday. A force arrived that does not, so often—which penetrates Being with understandings that do not relate to this level. They are not even, quite frankly, practical on this level since one can't "do" anything with them. Nonetheless, there are transformative properties that allow a much deeper questioning which accompany this particular and peculiar energy. When one is given the privilege of questioning wordlessly with a force that fills the entire nature of one's existence with this fundamental awareness of divinity, magnetic and molecular in nature, one wonders in an absolute—rather than relative—sense about exactly who we are and where we find ourselves.
We cannot know this, no matter how we try.
But we can become present to it.
Longtime readers may recall a few earlier essays about the siddhis, or perfections, that can be developed on the path of yoga. Now, Yogananda warned his followers that an unhealthy interest in yogic power was a danger to those truly on the path; and he was right to do so. There is only one "attainment," or spiritual power, important to an individual who truly devotes themselves to the path, and that is humility. Gurdjieff correctly identified this is the essential component of human spirituality when he said that we have to realize our own nothingness.
Yet realizing our own nothingness intellectually alone is quite useless. By itself, and without any spiritual effort whatsoever, science identifies our own nothingness by placing us (correctly) in the middle of a cosmological vastness that is quite practically incomprehensible in its nature. What good does that do us? Mankind's hubris in the face of this objective fact is nothing short of astonishing. And it isn't even enough, not at all, to recognize our collective hubris — it is my individual, personal hubris that matters here. One could say that my arrogance becomes the essential question; and I must learn to feel this in my body, not think it with my mind. The feelings are capable, if they are allowed to awaken from within, to sense this; and it is a quite extraordinary thing, to see that force within Being and the way it contrasts with my personality, the creature that believes it can do things and that it has an inward authority.
The real perfections within me remind me of this. They awaken a connection to forces I have forgotten or did not even know existed in the first place; they are indeed connected to the "peculiar sensations" that Gurdjieff mentioned when he discussed the action of the higher hydrogens.
We might note that from a yoga point of view, the siddhis represent outward powers, power over the material of one kind or another — even if it represents the power to know the future or to read the mind of another person. People get very excited when considering such things, because we all retain a deep attachment to the material and always want to manipulate it in one kind or another, thinking that will give us satisfaction, or show ourselves (and others) how important we are — an insidious fraction of desire that lies close to the heart of its lower nature.
We might say, from this point of view, that the perfections as they are seen from the materialist point of view are all creatures of the right hand, or natural, side of the enneagram. They are natural perfections. Spiritual perfections consist, one and all, of the various perfections that help me to sense Being in such a way that I am drawn to the essential qualities of spiritual service. Those perfections all help remind me of Being and draw me inward towards a contemplation of compassion and service. If one engages, at all, in what Gurdjieff called the perfection of the higher being-bodies, one might view it from this perspective:
The astral body represents the note sol, which creates real Being and lays the foundation for the development of compassion.
The causal body represents the note la, which represents the development of compassionate capacity and can lead to the purification of poisonous elements which are still found within Being. This corresponds in human beings to honor.
The mental body represents the note si, which represents the development of wisdom, whose only aim can be to lead us into obedient service.
One's entire inward aim ought to be for the development of such capacities, and nothing else. The only perfections, attainments, or superpowers that we can have which are truly perfect or super are wisdom and compassion.
Such are my thoughts on this matter this morning.
Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.