The note “mi”
Ibn Arabi says, of the second realm, that it is the world we are now in.
This realm is the realm of desire or craving, which is the realm that all sanity and being finds itself trapped in after it separates from God. Human beings do not simply find themselves in the realm of the material. Stones, water, and other inanimate objects belong to the first realm and experience no cravings, at least as we understand them. It is only when we reach the level of sentient beings — that is, beings which must make a choice between God and themselves — that the world of desire arises; and this is a critical metaphysical point, because the choice between self craving and the craving for not-self— which is a desire to return to God— is the essential point of the path in its entirety. The question arises as soon as material reality is created, and becomes the entire resident tone of the note mi, which mimics the word me, that is, myself — an individuality that sees itself as distinct from God.
Swedenborg emphasizes the lower nature of individuals invested in this belief, who have not succeeded in progressing to a full realization of their spiritual nature, which requires what Gurdjieff called three centered being, that is, the embodiment of the physical (material), emotional (desirous), and intellectual (powerful) aspects of being—the notes re, mi, and fa. (The note fa is the first syllable of the word fa-ther, denoting the fractional and divided (separated) ego of the lower self.)
in the second stage, a distinction is drawn between the things that are the Lord’s and those that are our own… The second stage rarely comes into play without trouble, misfortune, and grief, which enable bodily and worldly concerns — things that are our own — to fade away and in effect die out. The things that belong to the outer self, then, are separated from those that belong to the inner self…
—Emmanuel Swedenborg, Secrets of Heaven, §8
Gurdjieff defines man number two as “man in whom the center of gravity of his psychic life lies in the emotional center; the man of feeling, the emotional man.” (ibid, p. 71)
Once again we need to open this question up in terms of its larger metaphysical perspective. We lie in the emotional world, the realm of craving; and it is (perhaps paradoxically) within our essential identification with this second-realm nature, the nature of desire, that all of man’s spiritual aspirations begin. Emotion, after all, is where all of the force (the horse that draws the carriage and the driver) that propels man’s being comes from; and at the lower, or mechanical level (the level of the first three realms of development) that motive force is self-centered (egoistic), rather than centered on understanding God as the origin of all force.
Readers may recall that in his early talks, Gurdjieff said that pure emotions are non-egoistic; and of course this distinction draws the line between self-desire, that is, desire for oneself (Swedenborg’s selfishness, a characteristic of hell) and desire for God, which constitute same. Within this realm, a human being is caught in the struggle between the two forces of egoistic and non-egoistic desire; this is where Gurdjieff’s separation of self from self begins (see Swedenborg’s citation above, where he says exactly the same thing) and it is that selfsame world of struggle which Ibn Arabi describes in Journey to the Lord of power:
Know that since God created human beings and brought them out of nothingness into existence, they have not stopped being travelers. They have no resting place from their journey except in the Garden or the Fire, and each Garden and Fire is in accordance with the measure of its people. Every rational person must know that the journey is based upon toil and the hardships of life, on afflictions and tests and the acceptance of dangers and very great terrors. It is not possible for the traveler to find in this journey unimpaired comfort, security, or bliss. (ibid, p. 27)
Chakras and the Enneagram
The Universal Enneagram
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Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.