Wednesday, April 12, 2017

The Six Realms, Part VI

The Realms: Realm # 5
The note “la”

This acquisition of Being serves as the foundation for purification, which takes place in the fifth the realm of Ibn Arabi’s progressive system. He calls this realm the realm of the Garden and the Fire.
The realm has a dualistic nature, because it is, first of all, a garden — a place in which spiritual growth takes place, furthermore, a place that is vested in abundance. It is also a place of fire because everything is tested here. The growth can only take place through purification. So the fifth realm is a realm of both worship and trials.

Swedenborg’s description of man number five, the man who must purify himself, says:

In the fifth stage, we speak with conviction and, in the process, strengthen ourselves in truth and goodness. The things we then produce have life in them and are called the fish of the sea and the birds in the heavens. —Emmanuel Swedenborg, ibid, §11. 

This appears to edit out the essential characteristic of this realm, or note on the octave, which is purification according to the yogic systems. Yet we notice that he says “strengthen ourselves in truth and goodness.

Gurdjieff’s description of this stage says that “Man number five has already been crystallized.” In this realm,

“the knowledge of man number five is whole, indivisible knowledge. He has now one indivisible I, and all his knowledge belongs to this. He cannot have one I that knows something which another does not know. What he knows, the whole knows. His knowledge is nearer to objective knowledge than the knowledge of man number four.”—Gurdjieff, ibid, p. 72.

We can compare this comment to Swedenborg’s remark that in the fifth stage, we speak with conviction. Any reader can easily see these are essentially the same statements.

 The fact that intentional suffering characterizes the passage from sol to fa, even though the shock is in the “wrong” place in the diagram, indicates that there is a struggle afoot, crystallized or not. It is fair enough to say that all of this purification relates directly to Gurdjieff’s description of the Holy Planet Purgatory, the place human beings and sentient, three-brained beings end up in the process of trying to free themselves from that which is not Godly in order to gain entry to the kingdom of heaven. This process is an equivalent to Swedenborg’s strengthening one’s self in truth and goodness.

Gurdjieff’s Holy Planet Purgatory, by the way, shares an exact identity with Ibn Arabi’s realm of the Garden and the Fire. The Garden is the planet itself with all its beauty; the Fire is the anguish that all the beings on it feel. Interestingly, even though this is a metaphysical place, it also shares an identity on this level, which means that the process of man’s development in this life mirrors the metaphysical and cosmological implications of the Holy Planet Purgatory. My discussions of the precise nature of religious ecstasy have a bearing on this, but there is no time to go into it here.


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Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

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