Friday, April 14, 2017

The Six realms, Part VII


The Realms: Realm # 6
The note “si”

The sixth realm is referred to as the sand dune outside the Garden by Arabi.

This stage represents wisdom. The garden is the original garden of Eden, or, the absolute, that is, the place from which all growth comes.

Gurdjieff’s comment about man number six is: the knowledge of man number six is the complete knowledge possible to man; but it can still be lost.—Gurdjieff, ibid, p. 7

Swedenborg’s comments on the sixth stage of regeneration are as follows:

In the sixth stage, we act with conviction and therefore with love in speaking truth and doing good. What we then produce is called a living soul and a beast. Because we begin to act as much from love as from conviction, we become spiritual people, who are called [God’s] image. In regard to our spiritual lives, we now find pleasure and nourishment in religious knowledge and acts of kindness; and these are called our food. In regard to our earthly lives, we still find pleasure and sustenance in things relating to our body and our senses, which cause strife until love takes charge and we develop a heavenly character. Not everyone who undergoes regeneration reaches this stage. —Emmanuel Swedenborg, ibid, §12-13.

We are presented here with some slightly contrasting perspectives that need interpretation in order to co-join them.

The metaphysical identification of material reality’s apex—wisdom— as a sand dune is a complex but remarkable and quite ingenious one. The sand dune represents the complete knowledge possible to man.

In order to understand this, we need to see first of all the sand dune appears to us to be a single thing – a huge entity, that has reached great heights and is yet capable of movement by increments. It swallows everything in its path; yet it is composed of a seemingly infinite number of tiny things. It represents the entire summation of all material reality and the innumerable objects, events, circumstances, and conditions that a man can know.

Yet this entire massive entity is barren and worthless, and lies outside the garden — in other words, at the apex of man’s achievement after he completes the cycle of inner development, he both knows and comprehends everything, and is at the same time aware of the fact that all of this is worthless in the face of the source of life — the Garden, and God.

Swedenborg brings this point across from the point of view not just of wisdom and intellect, but of the whole Being. It’s interesting to note that Ibn Arabi and Gurdjieff both focus on the level of knowledge obtained in this realm; whereas Swedenborg focuses rather on the level of Being. The contradiction is explicable; both Ibn Arabi and Gurdjieff were fascinated with man’s pursuit of knowledge and understanding, and their interpretation of the realms and levels of development center around this kind of attainment. Swedenborg’s interest was primarily a man’s alignment with God, and because his teaching follows the emotional center of gravity that governs this spiritual trajectory, his description of his sixth stage of regeneration, Gurdjieff’s  man number six, or Ibn Arabi’s sixth realm, he gives us a somewhat different picture. The snapshot is, however, of a man who is overwhelmingly compassionate and loving, not one who is overwhelmingly intelligent.

His emphasis is not misplaced; because we can see quite clearly that Gurdjieff understands man number six has not attained a permanent value: what he has can be lost. At the same time, his remarks about the nature of man number six are at best cryptic, if one wants to presume there is anything at all there aside from a description of how much he knows. Ibn Arabi, on the other hand, chooses a brilliant metaphysical analogy — the sand dune — to let us know that man number six has achieved a fullness of knowledge consisting of as much understanding and knowledge as there are grains of sand in a sand dune (his equivalent of a beach, I might point out); yet that sand dune represents, in the end, an objectively worthless and useless pile of material. So both Gurdjieff and Ibn Arabi understand that man number six, in comparison with God and the absolute, is in a certain sense nothing. All of that knowledge has almost no value.

Swedenborg gives us, instead, what indubitably does have value from that state; the attainment of a real and wise compassion and love, which alone represents true knowledge, quite distinct from all those grains of sand in the sand dune. Gurdjieff and Ibn Arabi, in an ironic twist, tell us what Man number six has; Swedenborg tells us who he is and how he behaves. Our
Take further note that unlike man of the other levels, Swedenborg’s man is able, in Gurdjieff’s words, to do.

Ibn Arabi refers to the subordinate nature of octaves, which form a nested circumstance of multiple levels, with each note representing an entire octave at the level below it. He says the realization of their multiplicity is not within human power because the iterations expressed are essentially infinite once the interactions between and throughout all the levels are taken into account. The nested nature of octaves and the levels yields us yet another meaning for the allegory of a sand dune: even though all of the meaning is there, it is ultimately hidden, despite its absolute presence.

Hosanna.




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Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

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