—Notes from a meeting with Gurdjieff, June 30 or July 17, 1922
The fundament of the universe is Love, bliss; it is an undifferentiated substance, like aether, from which all “stuff” is made. That is to say, all of creation emerges uninhibited from this foundational act of Love; Love exists before matter and consists of a one-ness that does not discriminate.
If we take this as the ground floor of reality as it arises we are not, I think, too far off. Words always fail; but it is something like this.
Having multiple direct experiences with religious ecstasy, I'll attest directly to the ground-floor nature of that Love/bliss; and it’s in pondering those very exact, precisely remembered experiences that I can now understand that the nature of the universe is, at the bottom, ecstatic.
That ecstasy is at the same time both supremely intelligent and completely unintelligent; it fully embodies this contradiction, which effectively erases words and definitions while still preserving meaning.
Yet it begins before God’s conscious investigation of His creation is ever undertaken. God wants to know His universe (see Gurdjieff’s early talk on the meaning of life); the act of self-remembering on the microscopic scale is nothing more than a mirroring of the exact same process on a cosmological scale. The universe—and everything in it, sentient or otherwise— emerges from primordial bliss into a self-knowing which embodies Gurdjieff’s increase of knowledge. That is the “active nature” of the universe; and it embodies, as well, our own active nature. The passivity of bliss, which demands nothing of the receiver, is the domain of ignorance; thus, the realm of angelic devils. One can see that they nonetheless occupy a critical place in the construction of this topsy-turvey universe; they lie at the foundation of all creation and are actually essential to its being. Furthermore, despite their passive and ignorant (unknowing) nature, they are still essentially loving, steeped, in fact, in the original substance of Divine Love. The metaphysical complexities this presents are touched upon in Sri Anirvan's Buddhi and Buddhiyoga (in Inner Yoga); all of that which seems evil ultimately engenders good and serves the good; and is even a necessary component of the good.
This touches on transcendental, nondualistic understandings about the nature of reality which are correct from a technical and philosophical point of view, but which prove useless to us, since they cannot be reconciled on our own level.
—New Delhi, December 2016
This essay continues on Feb. 18.
Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.
Most readers are well familiar with Gurdjieff's formulation of human beings as "three brained beings."
My new book, Being and Impressions, consists of brief and practical discussions on the subject, along with observations about impressions and how we take them in.
The book was written to address some questions that have been directed at me over the last few months on the subject, which helped me to understand that many folks still struggling with these concepts—even after many years of effort to understand them.
Most moving was a friend of mine—a true genius of talent with extraordinary outer accomplishments to his credit—who still after most of a lifetime, feels he cannot understand why impressions don't fall more deeply into him.
His comment touched me in ways that theoretical discussions of these matters never do. I felt it was necessary to undertake an effort to grapple with these questions more directly, in a contemporary language, rather than the material we are all familiar with and have been reading for many years.
The aim in this book is to simplify and clarify some of these matters. It remains to be seen whether I have succeeded. Readers will have to judge.
Interested readers can purchase the book by clicking on the link in the above text.