which things come to exist and experience actually occurs. It is necessary that you know what the Truth wants from you in any Realm, so that you hasten to it without hesitation and
without resistance.’ The Realms, although they are many, are all derived from six.
The first Realm is [the pre-existence in which we were asked the question] "Am I not your Lord?" Our physical existence has removed us from this Realm. The second Realm
is the world we are now in. The third Realm is the Interval through which we travel after the lesser and greater deaths. The fourth Realm is the Resurrection on the awakening earth and the return to the original condition. The fifth Realm is the Garden and the Fire. The sixth Realm is the Sand Dune outside the Garden.
And in each of these Realms are places which are Realms within Realms, and the realization of them in their multiplicity is not within human power.
—Ibn al Arabi, Journey to the Lords of Power, p. 27
The periods and stages of our regeneration—both the whole process and individual cycles within it—divide into six, and these six are called our days of creation. Step by step we advance from being nonhuman to being somewhat human, though only a little, then more and more so up to the sixth day, when we become [God’s] image…All the while the Lord is constantly fighting on our behalf against evil and falsity and through these battles strengthens us in truth and goodness.
The time of conflict is when the Lord is at work, and he does not rest until love takes the lead. Then the conflict ends. When the work progresses so far that faith is united with love, it is called very good, since the Lord now makes us likenesses of himself. At the end of the sixth day, evil spirits retreat and good ones take their place. We are led into heaven, or the Paradise of heaven…
—Emmanuel Swedenborg, Secrets of Heaven (Click on the Link for the full text.)
"Once again let us take the idea man. In the language of which I speak, instead of the word 'man,' seven words are used, namely: man number one, man number two, man number three, man number four, man number five, man number six, and man number seven. With these seven ideas people are already able to understand one another when speaking of man.
"Man number seven means a man who has reached the full development possible to man and who possesses everything a man can possess, that is, will, consciousness, permanent and unchangeable I, individuality, immortality, and many other properties which, in our blindness and ignorance, we ascribe to ourselves. It is only when to a certain extent we understand man number seven and his properties that we can under stand the gradual stages through which we can approach him, that is, understand the process of development possible for us.”
—Gurdjieff, as recounted in In Search of the Miraculous, P.D. Ouspensky, page 71. (Check the link for the complete text.)
Both Swedenborg and Ibn Arabi’s teachings on the realms — the six stages of spiritual regeneration — spring from the same esoteric source. The path is described by six stages, that corresponding to the six notes on Gurdjieff’s enneagram. In this essay, we will concentrate on the relationship between Arabi’s comments in Journey to the Lord of Power, Swedenborg’s six-stage concept of regeneration as recounted in Genesis, and the six stages of spiritual development according to Gurdjieff’s enneagram.
What interests me here is that each of these teachings clearly came from the same source; that all of them, despite their separation by hundreds of years, explain exactly the same system in somewhat different terms; and that each one of them sheds some light on that system, albeit a different one. By understanding that the enneagram connects all of these teachings, and is in fact a model or a map of them, we understand how powerful the image is.
Readers who check the online citation from In Search of the Miraculous (quotations from page 71 through 74 the original edition) will furthermore see how teachings about the world and everything in it were tied into the enneagram; and how everything follows the same stages of development that are cited for mankind’s spiritual path, since Gurdjieff lays that out in some detail during these passages. It underscores the need to understand the metaphysical and cosmological forces that drive the diagram in order to understand what drives all objects, events, circumstances, and conditions, each one of which is under the same set of laws.
Swedenborg’s insight that the Genesis story of world creation is in fact a recounting of the inner development of man aligns his understanding directly with Gurdjieff’s teachings about man numbers one through seven. The enneagram effectively ties together Jewish (Genesis), Arabic (Sufi), and Christian teachings together with Hindu (yogic) teachings (see Chakras and the Enneagram), demonstrating that they all spring from the same root and describe the same system.
The value that this study yields is that each of the systems helps us, from one perspective or another, to better understand this complex subject from multiple points of view.
It’s quite easy to demonstrate that Swedenborg’s teaching on the esoteric meaning of Genesis reveals it identical to Gurdjieff’s description of man number seven. Swedenborg’s description of man who reaches the seventh level is as follows:
A heavenly person is the seventh day. And since the Lord worked through six days, that individual is called his work. This is why the seventh day was consecrated and named “Sabbath,” from a Hebrew word for rest. In the process the human being has been made, formed, and created… These secrets… have continued to lie hidden. No one knows what a heavenly person is, and few what a spiritual person is. Inevitably, in their ignorance, people have considered a spiritual person the same as a heavenly one, when a rather large difference separates the two… all regenerate people, when they develop a heavenly nature, are then likenesses of the Lord. They are past the six days of conflict, or labor.
—Emmanuel Swedenborg, Secrets of Heaven, §85Hosanna.
Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.