Thursday, July 29, 2021

Good and Evil in Beelzebub's Tales to His Grandson, Part IV: Purity

 Part IV of a seven-part series

 "However it may have been, my boy, the detailed and impartial research I made on the spot brought to light the following: "When that idea had gradually taken on this maleficent form, it became for the psyche of your favorites what is called a 'determining factor' for the crystallization of data in their common presence for the fantastic notion that there exist, as it were, outside of them objective sources of 'Good' and 'Evil' which act upon their essence.

Here we come to what is perhaps the most salient point in Gurdjieff’s perspective: human beings assign these properties of “good” and “evil” to objects, events, circumstances, and conditions outside of themselves. This is problematic from multiple points of view; but the most important problem it poses us is that it becomes an immediate denial of the very agency that human beings are meant to exercise as mediators of the reconciling factor. It is an abrogation of duty; and that simple fact in itself carries a great weight in light of Gurdjieff’s tremendous emphasis on being – duty.

This action outsources the responsibility for what takes place to others. It creates, among other things, a world of blame; it is a refusal to accept one’s own responsibility and one’s own agency, and action most typical of little children. Yet of course we don’t fully outgrow that in a lifetime; and in that regard, perhaps we are reminded of St. Paul’s comment on what it means to become a human being in 1 Corinthians 13:

When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things.

It’s no coincidence that this passage is embedded in the Corinthians passage about love, which Gurdjieff mentions in the meaning of life as “that which can lead us to the miraculous.”

Take note that Gurdjieff does not say good and evil don’t exist; his suggestion is that they don’t have an objective existence outside us. We are fully and wholly responsible for the good and bad that is done; yet our assignment of that quality to something outside ourselves excuses us from the need to struggle with our own question about what is good and bad. We might note that the “inner evil God of self calming” consists, among other things, of exactly this passive suggestibility:

This strange trait of their psyche, that of being satisfied with whatever Smith or Brown says without trying to know more, became rooted in them long ago, and now they no longer make the least effort to know anything that can be understood solely by their own active reflection. (from Beelzebub’s Tales, chapter 13.)

Beelzebub extends the paradigm even further:

From then on, other peculiar data began to be crystallized in their general psyche—at first spontaneously and later owing to their strange consciousness—which engender the conviction, through automatic being-associations, that the causes of all their manifestations, both good and bad, are not to be found in themselves, in their own criminal essence-egoism, but in some external influence not depending on them at all. 

There is a certain naïveté implicit in this worldview, to be sure; but I think we can agree that in the absence of serious inward, self-directed critical examination, every human being is prone to exactly this kind of attitude. The whole point of Gurdjieff’s self observation is, among other things, to see this.

"The fundamental harm ensuing from this fantastic idea for all these unfortunates is that, thanks as always to the abnormal conditions of ordinary being-existence established by them themselves, data cease to be crystallized in them for engendering what is called a 'being-world-view with diverse aspects', and instead of this a 'world-view' is formed in them based exclusively on that maleficent idea of external Good and Evil. 

What we end up with is a polarized perspective. Without being aware of it, we narrow the range of our critical intelligence into a single channel unable to appreciate the diverse and changing nature of the world that we live in and the inner nature of our own being. This actually cripples our agency; we become machines, slaves.

Once internalized, this becomes the basis for every kind of self abuse, since we develop an inner mirror reflecting our ideas about the outer world. This is a reciprocal process; once it crystallizes, it is nearly impossible to escape the reflexive action which blames everything but how we are unto ourselves.

"And indeed at the present time, your favorites base all questions without exception—those about ordinary being-existence as well as those about self-perfecting and about 'philosophies' and 'sciences' of every kind, and of course their innumerable 'religious teachings,' not to mention their notorious 'morals,' 'politics,' 'laws,' 'ethics,' and so on— exclusively on that fantastic and for them in the objective sense pernicious idea.

This last passage presents us with more of a dilemma. It tends to throw the baby out with the bathwater; and begins in several disturbing ways to represent some of the rants which Gurdjieff embeds in his texts. He does, after all, endorse any number of actions in these same spheres as long as they conform to what he calls objective consciousness, objective law, or objective science; so it isn’t the activities themselves which he condemns. It’s the nature of their arising, the source of their content.

It would be easy to mistake otherwise; it sounds like he is dismissing everything we do in these areas. Yet what he is dismissing is our subjectivity in these matters, not the matters themselves. There is a need for philosophy, science, morality, politics, law, and ethics; but the need is an objective one, and our subjectivity, our selfishness, and our refusal to accept responsibility for our own being and action in these areas is what corrupts them. A closer reading of the essay The Meaning of Life will remind the reader that he said exactly this in that piece: 

There can be any impersonal envy; for example, envy of one who has conquered himself. An impersonal hate: the hate of injustice, of brutality. Impersonal anger — against stupidity, hypocrisy… love of science can be pure, or mixed with personal profit… the same is true in art, literature, etc. The love of activity is a worthy sentiment when it is pure. But what happens, invariably, is that it becomes mixed… Pride, vanity, personal ambition enter in.

Gurdjieff, in other words, is not and never was and iconoclast of ordinary institutions, ordinary activity. He was not a denier of the existence of objective good. What he was an iconoclast of was subjectivity; of egoism. And this is a very different thing indeed.

Our institutions, our societies, and our attitudes are built out of the selfsame subjectivities, which arise from the outsourcing of personal responsibility for thinking critically, for not believing every other person who comes along selling snake oil. Our inner attitude arises from our assumptions and what we have been told; not what we discover for ourselves through conscious labor and intentional suffering. 

The evil inner God of self calming, in other words, is an outsourcing of responsibility for what Gurdjieff would have called active being-mentation. This is the role that third force takes on in life; and it calls for a diversity of thinking, a flexibility. His very use of the word crystallization implies a rigidity that does not allow for further development; and our outward ideas of good and evil are catalysts for that action.

We must become inwardly responsible for good and evil, within ourselves; and that is a tall order indeed.

May you be well within today.


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Monday, July 26, 2021

Good and Evil in Beelzebub's Tales to His Grandson, Part III: Third Force

 Part III of a seven-part series

The remaining fraction of this mechanism represents third force, the “holy reconciling” factor in Gurdjieff’s Trinitarian cosmology. This force acts as an inner part of man’s being according to the law of his formation as a mirror of larger cosmic processes. It corresponds to Meister Eckhart’s ground of the soul, that middle meeting place between the divine inflow and the outward action of agency in which an exchange takes place.

Gurdjieff describes this force as the result of the clash of inner and outer properties; and this represents some significant conceptual and theological challenges, because describing it as a result implies that it does not have an independent nature; and I believe it reasonable to point out here that the general conception of third force as considered by Gurdjieff pupils — as well as the general conception of the Holy Ghost — is that of a force or agency owning an independent identity distinct from the other two forces.

It poses further theological challenges in light of Christian teaching, because in Christian teaching the traditional structure of engenderment is Father – Holy Ghost – Son. Gurdjieff’s description asserts instead that the Father and the Son, taken together, give birth to the Holy Ghost; nuanced, perhaps, but also a potential heresy.

'And as for the third universal force, this is nothing but the result of the clash, everywhere and in everything, of these two fundamental, descending and ascending independent forces. " 'Although this third independent force is only the result of the first two fundamental forces, it is nevertheless the spiritualizing and reconciling principle of every cosmic formation. 

Gurdjieff describes the third force as the result of a clash between the other two forces. The word clash has imitative origins meant to reproduce the sound of a loud noise, two symbols coming together; yet it can also mean — as it does here — a struggle. We are reminded of Gurdjieff’s ray of creation, where the pressure (the momentum from the prime source) of the ray of creation is great and actually works against the struggle of creatures to ascend its hierarchy. 

Lest we doubt that this result, this third force, is not an independent entity, he reiterates that it is only (”nothing but”) the result, emphasizing its origin. This puts to lie any presumption that Gurdjieff makes room for an alternative interpretation. It furthermore imparts an exquisite irony to the traditional Gurdjieff adage that “one doesn’t work for results”: third force is a result.

Despite its dependent nature, it’s still absolutely essential, per its role as the spiritualizing and reconciling principle of every cosmic formation. 

Gurdjieff’s famous wordiness consistently belies the succinct nature of his more important statements. Much can be inferred here in this simple turn of words. First of all, we know that Gurdjieff has sketched out a very firm view of the essential nature of being. 

Being arises from within the spiritual — the divine inflow of the first force from the prime source is the “outward breath” of the divine, which is received as the “inward breath”of the material. This is the literal meaning of that which is spiritual, derived from Latin spirare, to breathe.

Yet the result of that inspiration, that breathing in of the divine by the material, is not just the cosmic formation itself (the created material) but also a lawful animation consisting of a spiritualizing principal that automatically arises. If we think about it for a moment, this is, in fact, a second spiritualization or inspiration of force; and we can liken this at once to Gurdjieff’s discussion of conscious shocks. It is a force arising automatically from the existence of the first two forces and their opposing struggle; and it animates being as a reconciling principal. It is what brings the two forces back together.

The two forces create the third force by their very existence alone; and it raises questions about the nature of third force. It can be construed, as might be typical in the geometry of the equilateral triangle, as the apex of the triangle, with affirming and denying forces lying along its base as entities on the same level and of equal value. 

In this image, the reconciling force is a higher force, located as it is at the apex of the triangle; and yet that seems peculiar, because in most conventional versions of God’s place in religious cosmology, the highest action comes from God —not from the “third force” of reconciliation between God and the material.

'And it is the spiritualizing and reconciling principle of every cosmic world-formation because it arises and must exist in them as a presence as long as there exist the results of diverse unusual mutual resistances occurring between the two fundamental forces flowing in entirely opposite direction.' 

In this phrase, we see that Gurdjieff conceives of the third force as an inevitable lawful arising as a consequence of the flow of the two opposing forces — the higher into the material, and the material back into the higher.

Understanding third force, in its Christian terms, as the Holy Spirit — Jeanne de Salzmann’s “higher energy” — we must take a further step in understanding that it represents the potential for a conscious action. As a spiritualizing force, it gives life to what is — it serves as breath, as inspiration. As a reconciling principal, it can function either mechanically or consciously; and of course Gurdjieff’s interest is in the conscious function of the third force.

May you be well within today.


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Friday, July 23, 2021

Good and Evil in Beelzebub's Tales to His Grandson, Part II: Chapter 44

 Part II of a seven-part series

The preceding introduction is, however, just a 30,000 foot view of chapter 44. The core of mankind’s concepts of good and evil are embedded in a relatively brief passage, the kernel of the chapter, which recounts MK’s great discovery, which was later corrupted by human beings and their various religions.

The passage begins with a tripartite proposition which we can approximate as a representation of Meister Eckhart’s tripartite division of the soul. It casts itself at once as an inner proposition in which there is a part in mankind that receives emanations from the Prime Source, easily equated with Meister Eckhart’s transcendent nature of God. This describes the innermost part of the soul which receives the most intimate contact with God, equivalent to God the Father:

'It is evident that we men, like all units existing in the Universe, are formed and always consist of the same three independent forces, by means of which the process of reciprocal maintenance of everything existing is actualized, that is, the following three universal forces. 

'The first of these forces continually arises from causes appearing within the Prime Source itself from the effect of the pressure of new arisings and, issuing from it by momentum, flows out of that Prime Source. " 

This is a description of the divine inflow into being in the most intimate part of the soul. It is what gives birth to being. The iteration of man as a microcosmos identical in its construction, hierarchy, and particulars to the megalocosmos is equally explicit. It’s a description of the act of creation not just of the cosmos itself but of individual beings within it. A further nuance emerges in Gurdjieff’s remark about the “pressure of new arisings”, which serves as an indicator that creation is perpetual, takes place in eternity, and is lawful (issuing from it by momentum.) One is reminded here of Meister Eckhart’s repeated insistence that if man and his ego only get out of the way, God must flow in to the void that is created. 

Gurdjieff goes on to describe the outermost part of the soul, which would be called God the Son in Christian practice:

'The second universal force is what this first force becomes when, after having spent the momentum it had, it strives to reblend with the source of its arising, according to the fundamental cosmic law "the effects of a cause must always re-enter the cause. " 

'In the general process of reciprocal maintenance, these two forces are entirely independent, and in their manifestations always and in everything keep their own properties and characteristics. " 'The first of these two fundamental forces, the one that is always compelled to manifest outside the source of its arising, must constantly involve, and the second, on the contrary, in striving to reblend with the cause of its arising, must always and in everything evolve. " 

In this description, we encounter the transformation of the highest energy of the inflow into the external powers of the soul, which in Meister Eckhart’s conception (see the commentary on sermon one) engender agency. While the first force involves —”rolls into” — the second force evolves — literally, “rolls back out of.” Agency, in its interaction with the material, re – collects the dispersed portions of the involutionary force. By this action they are re – concentrated through effort (striving,) thereby reassimilating into the original wholeness of the original. The idea is a commonplace theme in Meister Eckhart’s sermons.

Implicit in this is the idea that the more whole they are, the more successfully they can re-blend with the cause of their arising — which is, of course, a description of Gurdjieff’s cosmological engine as presented in The Holy Planet Purgatory.

There are already some notable connections between Meister Eckhart’s vision of the soul and its functions here; yet it is a mere beginning.

'Since the first of these three independent forces arises from vivifying actions proceeding in the very foundation of the Cause of everything that exists and thus receives in its presence the germ of that same power of manifesting vivifyingness, it may be considered as "Good," that is, as a factor for the actualizing of the backward-flowing effects, which in relation to this first force can and must be considered as "Evil." 

The unfortunate misunderstanding about the nature of the words “good” and “evil” arises in this single passage. The difficulty begins here with the fact that the words are labels for lawful cosmological processes. In this descriptive passage, “good” is nothing more than the involutionary or creative force, and “evil” nothing more than the evolutionary force. Their value is not moral but objective. One disseminates vivifyingness (brings life to matter by undergoing the dissolution of its nature) and the other re-gathers that force to return it to its source.

The error — and it is an egregious error indeed on the part of MK— is that his choice of words for the evolutionary force names it “bad.” Why he chose the particular word “evil” remains entirely unclear, and Beelzebub does not offer us any clues. 

It leaves us with the question: if MK is not to blame for this choice of words, who is?

The situation arises, perhaps, as an inevitable consequence of dualism: if the involutionary force is good, the evolutionary force has to be its opposite. Yet this is a function of thinking on the order of 48 laws, in which every law from the higher level of 24 laws is reflected by an inversion of itself on this one. Such inversion does not take place on the level above us; yet we’re locked into thinking of things as composed of opposites on this level. It’s by law the very nature of the level itself.

From that perspective, it was inevitable that “good”would find its counterpart in “evil” in the minds of men; and yet we can see the sheer illogic of this concept by understanding that the very action of the evolutionary force is nothing more than an effort to return to the good. (This is not how we usually understand the word “evil.”)

That effort of return embodies both subjective (egoistic) and objective (non-– egoistic) elements and actions; and from this perspective, a further (and objective) division must be made between actions which are selfish and actions which are not. That particular division actually lies at the heart of Gurdjieff’s philosophical and theological contemplations:

“The sign of the growth of emotion is the liberation from the personal element. Personal emotion fools, is partial, unjust. Greater knowledge is in proportion to fewer personal elements. The problem is to feel impersonally. Not all emotions are easily freed of the personal. Certain ones by their nature corrupt, separate. Others, like love, lead man from the material to the miraculous.” (From “The Meaning of Life,” a.k.a. Pure and Impure Emotions, page 3) 

The distinction between that which corrupts and separates as opposed to that which re-unites is clear enough here.

From a certain vulgar perspective, we do end up with an “evil” here; yet the evil lies, as Gurdjieff goes on to explain, not in the inherent nature of external things, but in the agency that engages with them. Everything turns on that agency and the choices that it makes; and we find ourselves here in a distinctly Swedenborgian territory. That same territory is by no means foreign to Gurdjieff, who bases all the great premises of his teaching on personal responsibility and the fulfillment of being-duty. Indeed, we find those concepts embedded even here in this rather pithy examination of good and evil, both as they exist subjectively and objectively.

One might sum this up with an aphorism: A selfish wish to return to the good is evil.

 May you be well within today.


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Good and Evil in Beelzebub's Tales to His Grandson, Part I: Overview

 Part I of a seven-part series

In reviewing Gurdjieff’s comments on good and evil, a significant part of his opinion on this matter is exposed in chapter 44 of Beelzebub’s Tales to his Grandson.

The chapter is another inner allegory couched in Gurdjieff’s standard vehicle: a metaphysical treasure hunt. The uncovering of lost, ancient knowledge results in a revelation. In this case, the lost knowledge of the teachings of Makary Kronbernkzion, inscribed on two elephant tusks, preserved since the time of Atlantis. They became separated and their significance was forgotten. 

One of these tusks was eventually buried and had to be dug up (an abstract reference to Gurdjieff’s adage “bury bone deeper,” indicating to us that we need to dig to understand the meaning of this chapter.) The device is simple enough: he has concealed the old folk saying, “you have to put two and two together” in his description of the elephant tusks. That is to say, what he’s trying to impart in this chapter ought to be obvious to anyone who thinks about it a bit. 

The passages are encrypted and embedded in a series of stories about family relationships and genealogy, echoing Gurdjieff’s emphasis on the need for an awareness of membership in clan (a typical feature of traditional societies) and the respect for one’s heritage. The passages about the various angelic beings eager to pass judgment on whoever it was who corrupted humanity, along with the discovery — to their horror — that it was not only one of their own, but one of their best — is a recapitulation of the overall theme of the book, that is, the fallibility of even the highest being-bodies. 

It’s also a cautionary tale about the rush to judgment; because Makary Kronbernkzion is, we’re told, not ultimately to blame for the misinterpretation of his discoveries. This is a micro-encapsulation of the guiding principle behind Gurdjieff’s discourse on good and evil: “a being-world-view with diverse aspects.” 

In attempting to blame Makary Kronbernkzion for the objectively pathetic state of man’s awareness and his obsession with good and evil, the angelic host inadvertently engages in the exact same behavior they’re condemning. We find, in other words a fable embedded in the very action of the angels themselves. They’re forced, in the end, to seek a reversal from God himself for the consequences of their previous decisions, which were in error. This is an indicative of the need for ”help from the higher.” The fact that they can’t undo their previous judgment, but only ask for amelioration, is a cautionary tale reminding us that no matter what else, we remain responsible for our actions. That the amelioration of punishment is granted is a reminder that there is always hope. 

There is, furthermore, a powerful and explicit irony in the situation: as Gurdjieff remarks of “our ALL-MOST-GRACIOUS-CREATOR, he “only thought a little and then consented to command that this deserving soul should continue to exist on the holy planet until the future results of his evil deed should be revealed.” This neatly puts the whole question of good and evil back into play on a much higher level. From this one remark alone, we can presume that Gurdjieff is not telling us that good and evil don’t exist ( one of the vulgar interpretations of the text) but, rather, that they aren’t what we think they are. As with the entire allegory of purgatory, the ideas of good and evil turn around the question of personal responsibility.

May you be well within today.


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Saturday, July 17, 2021

Notes for the Aspiring Homeowner


The question often comes up of payment; and how I pay for anything inside myself.

We pay with suffering. But the suffering can’t simply be suffering that comes from outside. Remorse of conscience only comes from my inner digestion of the nature of my life and my action, my being.

You think that you are going through life shopping for sweets. Get a little of this, get a little of that. It’s very nice. Some decent food. An attractive man or woman. That car you wanted. Or, in the sense of the inner life, a compliment, something that pats the ego on its head. We all stagger from one event to the next hoping for these little treats.

Perversely, my irritations and the things I suffer with outwardly become treats as well. I indulge myself with my negativity. That’s also a little bonbon for me to eat. I catch myself nurturing my negativity, sucking on it like a hard candy and encouraging it so that I can nurse resentments and carry them around with me, go back to them to savor how wrong the other person was. And so on.

In this way, I have some suffering; that’s for sure. But I'm spending it on one petty little thing after another, without thought, automatically. So even in the matter of my negativity, I’m shopping for sweets.

But we're actually trying to buy a whole house. This is a serious business. If we want to change from within, we can’t go shopping for sweets anymore. We have to save. We're going to need a down payment and mortgage. If I squander all of my suffering on petty negativities from within, I never concentrate enough of it to make a down payment on anything. This is why I need to catch myself in the middle of my negativity.

When we discuss non-expression of negativity, it means almost nothing from an outer point of view. Sure, I can't yell at that person. Easy enough to understand. But so what? Inside, everything that created the yelling is still there. 

I need to confront that — I need to understand how not to express my negativity inwardly, how to save it up, to more consciously understand that it's there and resist it from within. Not to ignore it or suppress it, but to fully engage with it inwardly and concentrate its energy so that I can really suffer what I am. See what I am inside. There's a lot of filth here that I have been treating like it’s bonbons. I need to stop sucking on that and look it straight in the face. 

I need to be ruthless with my assumptions. Save up to put the down payment on the mortgage. 

And it’s deeper still; it turns out I can’t afford to buy a house. I need help. I’m never going to be able to borrow what I need if my credit isn’t good; my own efforts have to demonstrate that.

Then maybe help will come.

May you be well within today.


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Wednesday, July 14, 2021

Purgatory, Gurdjieff, and Meister Eckhart: Part 3

Illustrations are from the Tympanum of Conques Cathedral in Conques, France.
An esoteric abstract on the details of the Tympaum is available for free, on request from the author.

And when a great many of these perfected independent Sacred Individuals had been assembled on the Most Most Holy Sun Absolute, then between the emanations of these Sacred Individuals and the atmosphere of the Most Most Holy Sun Absolute there was established what is called a 'geneotriamazikamnian contact, ' which brought on this terrible misfortune for the 'perfected highest being-parts' of which I have just told you.  

Geneotriamazikamnian contact means, roughly translated, “contact brought about by individual entities joined together in action by the law of three.” You can see why he coined a special term for it. 

"To be sure, the action of the results of this 'geneotriamazikamnian contact' soon became harmonized with the already existing action of our Most Most Holy Sun Absolute, and, from then on, the emanations of the sacred Theomertmalogos had to be changed, and the first consequences of this disastrous contact brought about a change in the harmonious movement of many solar systems and produced a disharmony in the inner functioning of certain of their planets.  

The collapse of the functions of individual impressions in the formation of being and the introduction of subjectivity into the wholeness of being began to disrupt the proper functioning of centers in mankind. This is what Gurdjieff means when he says that the disastrous contact brought about a change in the harmonious movement of many solar systems. Our inner cosmos is in disarray as a result of the admixture of these multiple subjectivities, each one of which formed according to law, but has a subjectivity at its heart that presumes its own authority.

Lest we begin to doubt that Gurdjieff is speaking in this allegory about the creation of our inner cosmology, about anything other than that — any literal understanding — he specifically mentions the following event:

"It was just then that there broke away from the solar system Khlartoomano that famous planet with quite exceptional particularities, which exists alone in space, at the present time this planet is called 'Remorse of Conscience.’

There cannot be any doubt that Gurdjieff refers here, as he does in other places, to the event whereby conscience became buried in man’s subconsciousness, which protected it from the admixtures in the psyche which damaged mankind’s ability to follow God’s commandments. This is why the planet “Remorse of Conscience” exists alone in space

It is, perhaps, a sobering thought that per Gurdjieff’s cosmology, in order to be at all, we must eventually go there. 

It does not have its own sun to give it light: it is, like Beelzebub himself, in exile.

Of final note — and I will not say much about it here — we should note that according to Gurdjieff, the collapse of the inner functions of man’s psyche into egoism was a terrifying event — that is, it inspires great fear. While the word is tossed off almost as a dramatic aside in the text, I believe it is worthy of much deeper contemplation, since fear forms so much of what we are. 

Inevitably, that fear must arise because of the competing force of the various individual kernels of ego within us, each one of which — as Meister Eckhart probably would have told us, were he here — wants to preserve its own existence at all costs, even if it needs to do inner violence in order to do so.

While the functional relationships that ME expounds in his explanation of the mechanics of interaction between God, the soul, and the outer world are the subject of Gurdjieff’s breakdown — and certainly more could be said about this — it’s notable that ME, while he mentions suffering in the key sermons that discuss the subject, does not bring us to the question and the role of feeling and remorse in the same way that Gurdjieff does. This is notable to me because remorse is the most important and inevitable of functions engendered by the awakening of sensation; and of course it is next to impossible to understand any of Gurdjieff’s practice without understanding the role of sensation, which is entirely absent from ME’s teachings. Eckhart thus stands closer to Zen in his description of an intellectual path of abandonment, which might be more like into the way of the yogi than that of the fakir or (ironically) the monk. 

As such, the chief benefit of an examination of ME’s functional description of the action of God’s word (Gurdjieff’s Theomertmalogos), the soul, and the outer world here is in the way it corresponds to Gurdjieff’s description of man’s inner cosmos and its dysfunction. 

In Gurdjieff’s view, the soul is broken: and perhaps this is why he says man as he is “doesn’t have one.” ME does not propose the lack of a soul per se; but he certainly joins Gurdjieff in a view of it as in absentia as regards to proper function. 

Is there really a difference?

While it is highly doubtful, in my opinion, that Gurdjieff derived his observations in any direct way from ME’s comments on the subject, it reveals an underlying esoteric tradition of great power which must be very ancient, and has informed successive views of the derangement of man’s psyche relative to the higher. 

We touch here on ancient Babylonian myths of the Tower of Babel, medieval discussions of the function of the soul as intermediary, and a modern Master’s ingenious spiritual allegory couched in the form of a new cosmology. All of them are related; and every one of them calls us to an intimate examination of the nature of our outer life, its contact with the soul, and the consequences for all of our parts.

 May you be well within today.


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Sunday, July 11, 2021

Purgatory, Gurdjieff, and Meister Eckhart: Part 2


Illustrations are from the Tympanum of Conques Cathedral in Conques, France.
An esoteric abstract on the details of the Tympaum is available for free, on request from the author.

8. "And the aggregate of the results issuing from all cosmic sources, great  and small, they then named the 'common-cosmic Ansanbaluiazar.'  

"It is interesting to remark concerning this 'common-cosmic  Ansanbaluiazar' that present-day Objective Science has the formulation.'  'Everything issuing from everything and again entering into everything.’

The emergence of this new, “second order”sun in an individual is precisely what Gurdjieff was referring to in the following passage:

"Before that common-cosmic misfortune, all the 'highest being-bodies' that arose and were perfected in certain tetartocosmoses and in their first descendants were immediately united with the Most Most Holy Protocosmos itself, because their common presences were still actualizing the results fully corresponding to it.“

This process, however, breaks down in mankind. And the description of that breakdown must have something to do with Gurdjieff’s vision of the inner man, the organ kundabuffer, and the way in which all of this conspired to ruin our psyches.

"Before this terrifying cosmic event, the sacred Theomertmalogos that issued from the Most Most Holy Sun Absolute was still in a pure state, without any admixture of extraneously caused arisings having their own subjective properties…

This passage introduces us to one of the significant correspondences between Gurdjieff and Meister Eckhart’s description of the human soul and its function. ME’s contention is that man’s contact with God is contaminated by every act of contact with the external, which — whether inner or outer — must be construed as subjective in man’s current ordinary state. The majority of his practice as expounded in Sermon One and in many other texts consists of an effort to eliminate every subjective admixture from being in order to purify it so that contact with God can take place in the soul.

 …and when this sacred Theomertmalogos entered the spheres of those planets on which the sacred crystallizations arose, whose transformations through 'beings-apparatuses'' served for the coating and perfecting of higher being-bodies, these latter acquired presences exactly corresponding to the required conditions of existence in the sphere of the Most Most Holy Sun Absolute.

In Gurdjieff’s conception, in this antediluvian, primordial state of man’s being, the word of God entered one’s inward being, the soul (which ME interprets in Sermon One as the mechanism for the interface between God and man, implying that he envisions a mechanical and substantive nature in the relationship, much like Gurdjieff’s) and directly informed the interaction of a human being, so that their other manifestations were directly aligned with God’s intentions. 

Indeed, Gurdjieff says this in what is for him a relatively straightforward manner. His description of “presences exactly corresponding to the required conditions of existence in the spirit of the Most Most Holy Sun Absolute” can be re-cast in plain English as men acting according to the commandments of God. Such human beings qualify for existence in heaven. This is strikingly aligned with ME’s conception of the way a human being will behave if they’re directly aligned with the will of God and have no admixture of their own presence in the relationship.

Something catastrophic goes wrong in us, however:

"But after that common-cosmic misfortune, on account of which the sacred Theomertmalogos began to issue from the Most Most Holy Sun Absolute with the admixture of subjective properties coming from extraneously caused arisings, from that time on, the sacred 'highest being-bodies' no longer had the possibility of corresponding to the required conditions of existence in the sphere of the Most Most Holy Prime Source.”

This is where we are now in our inner condition. The subjective has contaminated it. We no longer obey the commandments of God. And it is exactly the eradication of this subjectivity that ME calls us to in the majority of his sermons when he calls on us to abandon everything of both the inner and the outer condition that we conventionally inhabit. Most religions ask us to abandon our attachment to the outer: Meister Eckhart, ever the radical, asks us to abandon our attachment to everything. He, like Gurdjieff, is not going to win any popularity contests with the drift of his messaging.

Gurdjieff goes on to explain the collapse in the function of the soul in its role as an intermediary for God’s word:

"This admixture of extraneously caused arisings took place in the sacred Theomertmalogos owing to the following and, I must add, unforeseen causes.  

"When each perfected 'highest being-body' becomes an independent Individual and acquires its own law of the sacred Triamazikamno, it begins to emanate similarly to the Most Most Holy Sun Absolute, but in miniature. 

This passage describes not just the creation of an individual ego within the context of a single human being, but — and more importantly — the formation of the many “I’s” that human beings have within them. They function as a multitude of individual egos within an individual. This is a reconfiguration of the myth of the Tower of Babel, where Babylon represents the outer world and the many individuals within a human being who aspire to ”reach heaven” (be in charge of everything, as they conceive of it in the tower, a concretized symbol of mechanistic rationalism.)

One of the interesting points about this observation is that individual impressions and their aggregation form subordinate “individuals” with their own subjective impetus. In our ordinary state, we remain unaware of the collectivization of impressions. Per Gurdjieff’s fascinating allegory, as they aggregate, they acquire their own egos. These kernels function like abrasive grains of sand, individuated and conflicting parts of our psyche. In this way, our inner being becomes an environment of competitors, each one of which has successfully mirrored the nature of the universe—but in a subjective way, rather than an objective one.

This completely prevents them from reuniting in an objective manner.

May you be well within today.


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Thursday, July 8, 2021

Purgatory, Gurdjieff, and Meister Eckhart: Part 1

Illustrations are from the Tympanum of Conques Cathedral in Conques, France.
An esoteric abstract on the details of the Tympaum is available for free, on request from the author.

 In this essay, we will focus only on the narrow scope of Gurdjieff’s comments about the collapse of the original evolutionary condition of the universe and its potential implications as allegory, comparing it to Meister Eckhart’s discussion of the action of the soul.

In order to do so, we’ll need to interpret Gurdjieff’s comments as comments about man’s inner state; not comments about the external cosmos in general as it has existed since time immemorial. 

Let’s for the purposes of this brief study presume that what Gurdjieff is describing is what a properly ordered inner cosmos looked like before human beings fell into internal disorder; and what it looked like afterwards.

Gurdjieff’s “special word” for the collapse and rearrangement of the original cosmic state is the “chootboglitanical” period. 

 "And thus it continued right up to the time of that terrifying cosmic event which, as I have already told you, is now called the 'chootboglitanical period '  

The word “choot” in Russian means to sense or to feel intuitively, and the word litany is related to processionals; so one interpretation is that this is about the inner flow of the psyche in mankind. This is borne out by the next passage, which explains how things were arranged before this terrifying change took place:

"Before that common-cosmic misfortune, all the 'highest being-bodies' that arose and were perfected in certain tetartocosmoses and in their first descendants were immediately united with the Most Most Holy Protocosmos itself, because their common presences were still actualizing the results fully corresponding to it.  “

Let us take this to mean, for the purposes of our discussion, the conditions under which a human being’s impressions come into alignment with the inflow of the divine. The establishing of contact with one’s higher principles of being or, to put it in Ouspensky’s terms, the higher centers. 

All of the parts of a man or woman’s being that arose — came into the field of consciousness —and were perfected— became wholein certain tetartocosmoses— what Gurdjieff calls three brained beings — reunited immediately with God.

Translating this into an inner description, we understand that a person’s being and awareness arose as a result of three centered being, and was thus passed directly into contact with God. This is because the outer — their common presences — was functioning according to proper three-brained being, which corresponds in Christian terms to the action of God in the Holy Trinity.

We might mention here in passing that Gurdjieff’s descriptions of the various cosmoses are thereby to be understood as a direct analogy for the human inward arrangement, casting human beings as miniature versions of the cosmos. This is a commonly agreed-upon premise of Gurdjieff’s cosmology in the largest sense; by simple logic, the analogy has to hold water.

In this way, the following passage from The Holy Planet Purgatory is not a description of actual planets and suns, but the way that human beings are constructed within the limits of their own cosmos. It furthermore forms an enneagram:

 "Our cherubim also gave names, still existing today, to the emanations and  radiations issuing from all these cosmoses of different scales, by means of  which the Most Great Cosmic Trogoautoegocrat proceeds.  

1. "The emanation of the Most Most Holy Sun Absolute Itself, as I have  already told you, they called 'Theomertmalogos,' or 'Word-God.' 

Represents the note do, the absolute.

2. "The radiation of each separate second-order sun they called  'mentokifezoin.'  

Represents the note re, material creation as a whole. The body.

3. "The radiation of each planet separately they called 'dynamoomzoin.' 

Represents the note mi, desire. Emotion.

4. "That given off from the microcosmoses they called 'photoinzoin. ' 

Represents the note fa, power. Intelligence.

Do, Re, Mi. 

Taken together, these first three elements compose three brained being and describe to outer functions in man. They correspond to what ME called the powers; the outer part of the soul and their agency in regards to the natural world.

Fa, Sol, La. 

When three-brained being functions correctly, it creates a cosmically lawful whole awareness which is functional on the astral level and has the potential to contact the higher centers. This corresponds to the inner functions of man; in ME’s terms, the ground of the soul.

5. "The radiations issuing from the tetartocosmoses they called 'hanbledzoïn.' 

Represents the note sol, being. Consciousness. Known to be connected with the astral body. This engenders potential to come into contact with the next two notes:

6. "The radiation of all the planets together of each solar system they called 'astroluolucizoin. ' 

Denotes the note la, representing purification (contacted through remorse and intentional suffering.) Higher emotion. “Light from all the inner planets.”

7. "The radiation of all the newly arisen second-order suns taken together  they called 'polorotheoparl. '  

Represents the note si, wisdom. Higher intellect. “All things radiating from God.”

By the way, it seems likely that in Gurdjieff’s allegory these first two substances represent the “spiritual body and blood” of the Communion. First the body of Being (Ouspensky’s man number four, a new physical or astral body formed of the first three); second, a new body of feeling, formed in higher emotional center; and finally, the “new man,” the wisdom body. 

If both sides of the enneagram are completed, a new “second order” sun (the Son of the holy gospel) emerges at this note, which participates as a whole in the comprehensive unity of both the inner and the outer cosmos:

May you be well within today.


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.