In order to see a visual representation of what this post describes, please refer to the enneagram of worlds at the link.
In understanding the circulation of material, desire, power, being, purification, and wisdom, one must understand each of these names of God, or notes (forces) on the diagram represents a world of its own. In this sense, a "world" represents an octave of its own — and it is well-known that every note represents the "do," or absolute (beginning or apex) of a subsidiary (lower) octave of its own.
In this way, materiality is a world — desire is a world — and so on.
Three of these worlds (material, desire, power) belong to the natural world as we know it. The other three worlds belong to the spiritual world. "World" in each case represents a whole related suite of influence (i.e., an octave) that acts.
An individual generally becomes identified within one world or another. In that way, a person can become completely identified with materiality, and all of their life with their major interest in that influence. In this case, desire and power are used to magnify what can be obtained materially; if a person is identified with desire, they use power and material to magnify their desires; if a person is identified with power, they use material and desire to magnify their power; and so on. Interestingly, the spiritual side of the diagram operates according to exactly the same principles, so that an adept may become identified with being, purification, or wisdom.
Those who think about this may understand how this question is directly related to the yogic siddhis (perfections.) Each one of these belongs to a world (note); and so rightly explained there are actually a total of nine siddhis (not five or eight), three of which are related to the absolute, conscious labor, and intentional suffering, the other six being consequences of a completed octave (each) related to the six other Names of God. One could write a whole book about this, but there is not enough space to do so in this post. Sorry.
I can't iterate all the different possibilities here, but anyone who thinks carefully on what I am saying will see that the diagram can help explain almost any situation that any human being is in, since if you know which particular note they are invested in (be they monk or materialist), one can also use the same principle to understand all that's motivating them within the subordinate octave of that note. (This explains precisely how Gurdjieff was able to accurately assess people and their possibilities per his descriptions to Ouspensky in In Search of the Miraculous, but it is a science, so don't try this at home.)
I'll give one simple example: a man is deeply invested in the first note, re, of materiality, and never passes that note — he remains in the natural world, at that level. Nonetheless, within the subordinate octave of that note, he achieves wisdom (si) and thereby acquires a very high level of informed authority over the material. This is a very big thing, even though the results of it are limited to a single note and have extremely focused consequences.
There are 9 x 6= 54 iterations of this which taken as a whole will always exactly define a person's current position in regard to both inner and outer development... furthermore the system is wholly dynamic and interactive, so there are actually 2,916 (54 x 54) points of information to evaluate in the full analysis of an individual human's inner state. (I already told you this was a science. Cases where analysis of a person need to run this deep are, thanks goodness, exceedingly rare. The dominant forces almost always determine the general trajectory, the rest being nuance.)
This numeric digression wasn't really the point of this essay, so I will let readers think on this for themselves — which can be done at great length.
The point that I wanted to make here is that we can use the diagram to see, among the nearly infinite things that it explains, that the world is inhabited is roughly divided into two sets of forces that need to be reconciled: a world of things (the right side) and a world of ideas (the left side.) Now, these two sides mirror one another, so the world of things contains a powerful reflection of the world of ideas; and the world of ideas is powerfully mirrored by the world of things that, in some senses, appears to give rise to it. Actually, it doesn't — in metaphysical terms, the world of things is birthed by the world of ideas, because in metaphysics, all of the energy in the diagram actually flows backwards, something that can also happen in yoga and spiritual work, which is yet another subject we have no time for today.
What we have here is a situation where for the most part, all of the natural sciences and everything external that human beings do pretty much belongs to the world of things. The world of ideas, which is the only world that can have any real action on it, appears to be weak from the perspective of the world of things.
The world of things looks incredibly powerful due to the material manifestations that arise from it (think of nuclear explosions, for example.) In the world of things, the world of ideas (the higher world that ought to be served) is perverted into a world that serves the lower. That is, from our materialist perspective, we see ideas as tools to come up with things. If we have a spiritual perspective, we understand that all things ought to be used as tools in the service of ideas. So the conflict between religion and science in the modern world is a conflict between things and ideas; religion says that things should serve ideas, and science says that ideas should serve things. Materialism is an inversion, in other words, of a cosmological principle that we ignore at our own peril, as our destruction of our societies and environment makes clear.
I bring this up only because materialist philosophy has been engaging, in the Western world, in a steady destruction, dissolution, and discrediting of the world of ideas for some time now. If it cannot be applied materially or it doesn't make money, it isn't worth pursuing. This leads us to a world where the arts and philosophies that can inwardly form something real and and actually make life worth living are being flushed down a toilet of stuff.
There is an appalling emptiness at the heart of this that leads to a despair at the root of the soul; and yet this emptiness is sold on every billboard and injected into every product.
Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.