The Realms: Realm # 1
The note “re”
According to the science of the enneagram, realm number one is the realm of the material. While it is indubitably the physical realm, the realm of materialists and those who deny the existence of God (see Swedenborg’s comments on this, which are extensive) it also has a metaphysical aspect, that is, it represents the division of God from himself, that is, the point at which the transcendent separates itself into the immanent. It does not just describe the first realm itself; it represents the functional birth of all six realms, since it represents their foundation and grounding in the existence of material reality itself. The difference between God and his creation is defined here where Genesis and the Bible begin.
Ibn Arabi describes the realms as “the substrata of the moments in which things come to exist and experience actually occurs.” This is, put in simpler terms, Meister Eckhart’s creation or, from the point of view of the enneagram, material reality — which is what the six notes contained on the diagram describe. The enneagram is, as such, a map of the realms. The reason it corresponds exactly to Swedenborg’s days of creation is because the allegory of creation contained in Genesis shares an identity with Arabi’s realms; each one describes the stages of a human being’s spiritual development (see Swedenborg’s Secrets of Heaven for an explanation of the esoteric meaning of the creation myth in Genesis.)
Ibn Arabi says of the first realm,
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. (ibid, p. 27)
Ibn Arabi has somewhat garbled the exact meaning here. In this statement he combines the absolute, claiming it is both itself and the first realm—clearly incorrect, because the six realms all belong to that which is outside the absolute.
What he means to refer to is the material realm, which removes us from the absolute. This is the first realm, which places us firmly within creation. It is the note re in the law of octaves; and it is not a coincidence that it mimics the word ray, that is, an emanation — that which emanates from God.
Swedenborg’s regeneration iterates the first stage as preliminary, extending from infancy to just before regeneration, and called void, emptiness, and darkness. While this particular stage contains the essence of a human being buried within it — a precious substance “protected” by God as a remnant which may be reawakened when the time comes, it implies the immersion in the material world as a wasteland – a comparison that Ibn Arabi also draws with ordinary life. Nothing begins in a human being until something more real takes place. Most humans remain trapped in the material world in what is called sleep, that is, ignorance and darkness, unless and desire for development awakens in them.
Defined in terms of Gurdjieff’s man numbers one through seven, this is the realm of the physical man, the materialist, the one who takes everything literally and believes that everything comes from him himself. We should remember that although it appears to refer to “moving center man,” because there is a correlation with that part of the teaching, it actually simply represents materialism, the absolute assertion of ego (opposition to God so strong that denial of God arises) and the belief that a man and his own actions are the sole motive force for everything that takes place in his life. Understanding it from this perspective breaks down any simplistic understandings of man number one and moving center and relates the idea to its much larger (and consequently much more important) metaphysical implication.
Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.