The Great Exchange Between the Realms
Sunrise at the Pyramid of Giza
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MY HEART IS FULL this morning as I put fingers to keyboard and mind to articulating this fullness. It’s been a turbulent two weeks mentally and emotionally . . . but a victorious hurdle-jump, Thank you Father, with an increase in the intensity of energy, especially love energy.
Just after landing this morning and a dreamy night’s sleep, Cynthia Bourgeault’s EYE OF THE HEART caught my eye from my chairside table and invited me—more like a command than an invitation: “Pick me up! I’ve got more to share with you and with your audience.” So I sat down with a cup of Earl Grey tea and read Chapter Three: THE GREAT EXCHANGE.
As I finished reading, Bonnie joined me in the living room with a fresh cup of coffee. What transpired next was sheer magic as we engaged in a most stimulating conversation about the many levels of consciousness out of which the people in our world live and express . . . from the inspiring sublime spiritual down to the grosser levels of human degradation and depletion where getting is more dominant than giving. Our interchange was initiated by what I had just finished reading . . . along with the last sentence of a passage from an excerpt I share in my previous blog post—and with which Bonnie particularly resonates:
“In this realm the fruits of our human striving—both conscious and unconscious—are offered up to the whole. From this realm, in turn, we receive blessing, inspiration, guidance, and vivifying force, which are ours to share and bestow here below. Like a Sufi dervish, we receive and bestow, receive and bestow, as we turn and are turned within the greater cosmic dance.“
After our conversation, I turned my attention to the world-radiation service hundreds of us share every morning, receiving and bestowing a unified current of Love from Heaven into the Earth and the world of human beings. Even as the radiant Attunement Current moved out through my hands and entire being, an equally full responsive current returned to ascend upward in gratitude for the blessings bestowed.
This giving-and-receiving dynamic spilled over into my breakfast time as I blessed the gifts of Mother Earth’s bounty, welcoming them into my body temple and lifting their essences of grateful praise up to the One who created them and breathed life into their forms. What an utterly delightful state of mind and consciousness, I thought, is available to us in this mansion of the Father’s House! I just have to share it with you and all who read my blog. I pray for the capacity for writing and sharing what I’m seeing in my heart. I surrender to the River . . . and the River speaks . . . through me and through Cynthia. I certainly hear the rush of many waters as I ponder what I shall write. Listen.
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“Blessed is the Lion whom the man devours, for that lion will become man. But cursed is the man whom the lion devours, for that lion will become man.” —Gospel of Thomas, Logion 7
THE GREAT EXCHANGE
In this tiny, cryptic saying from the Wisdom teachings of Jesus, we actually find the kernel of the entire complex Gurdjieffian notion of the Trogoautoegocrat* laid out in less than thirty words—Certainly the moral kernel of it. Food, transformation, upward and downward exchange between the realms—it’s all here, together with the stunningly unequivocal answer to the question “What happens when we throw ourselves into the mix? The answer is that we wind up in the eye of the needle.
In the first of these parallel, trompe l’oeil [imaginary] transformations, man devours the lion, which means that he has digested, i.e. integrated, the fire and strength of his animal nature into the higher order of his conscious humanity; and the lion, thus transformed, steps forward as a servant and a vehicle. This is upward transformation.
In the second, when the lion devours the man, the man simply loses himself in his lower order bestiality; his human consciousness and cleverness become servants for his primordial rage, and what emerges is chaos and destruction. This is devolution, the downward trans-formation. And as the saying ironically acknowledges, “that lion has now become man.” It gets up in the morning, puts on its clothes, makes breakfast, makes policy, determines the fate of the world — and fills the atmosphere around him with the psychic toxins of his rage, fear, and alienation. This is “the terror of the situation,” according to Gurdjieff. And we do not have to look far from our immediate world situation to see it playing out.
A book authored and recently released by Kyle Harper touts a telling title: Plagues Upon the Earth: Disease and the Course of Human History. In the introduction is a fairly accurate assessment of how insidiously humankind is being devoured by the lower kingdoms, particularly by the parasitic and pathogenic realms of Nature, while our sciences proclaim to be “winning the battle” over diseases. This recent pandemic is a classic case in point. The human immune system is greatly overtaxed handling a toxic environment.
The goal of this book is to tell the story of how we have acquired our distinct disease pool and what it has meant for us as a species. It is a history in which we are a part of nature, rather than apart from it.” Harper’s argument is based on four sections of humankind’s technological innovations and how they impacted our relationship with diseases: fires, farms, frontiers, and fossils. “Modernity is not a one-way street to human supremacy over nature, but a kind of escalating ratchet, in which humans have gained a remarkable but unstable advantage over an ever-growing number of parasites.” Pathogens have one goal, and that is to pass on their genetic code. Humans have crafted themselves to be the perfect hosts for this goal due to our immensely dense population and the high transmission rate of our global interconnection. Humans are a successful species, and pathogens and parasites have benefited from our success.
The truth is, we do not belong at the evolutionary level of creation, certainly not at the level of “survival of the fittest.” Our mansion in the Divine Design is several levels higher, where we were made perfect and complete “in the image and likeness of God.” Our Human forms may be evolving, but not our Being, who and what we are.
We do not offer much in the way of blessing to our earthly habitat, nor to our own and other species. Out of all species on the planet, we are the only specie that is methodically destroying our sources of sustenance: poisoning our food crops with carcinogenic pesticides, polluting our air and water with toxic chemicals, and raping our planet of its mineral resources, not to mention our proliferating toxic landfills. The metaphorical Lion is devouring man and has become man, who is consuming his habitat and is therein cursed before he is born.
This is all a reversal of the divinely-ordained purpose of transmutation and exchange between the realms, where blessings and nourishment rain down from above and refined substance ascends in currents of praise and thanksgiving to the Creator of all the realms.
This bestial devouring activity has infected the nations of the world. On the global scene, nations compete with one another for dominance. The current hegemon is the United States of America, Inc., whose apparent goal is to foist its Democratic “genetic code” onto other nations . . . whilst oligarchic elements, both here and abroad, seek to infect Democracies with authoritarianism. The Military Industrial Complex—against which President Eisenhower warned us six decades ago—is the authoritarian Lion that has devoured and become Corporate America, amassing great wealth on the battlefields of nations. War is Big Business. We may not like nor want to look at this ugly side of our nation’s—nor our specie’s—character profile; but ignoring it doesn’t change it. The Lion has devoured the man, who is in dire need of transformation.
Cynthia continues sharing her profoundly insightful vision and perspective:
“The role of a conscious human being is to provide the phenomenal earth world with energies which otherwise would not be effectively transmitted to the creations and units which make up our world,” writes William Segal, one of the most brilliant first-generation students of the Gurdjieff Work. That is the bare, perhaps unglamorous bottom line. Whatever we like to think we’re up to in our philosophical or spiritual fantasies — saving the world, saving our souls, attaining full enlightenment — in terms of cosmic exchange, we are transformers, of molecules and of meaning in equal measure. It is the cosmic function apportioned to us in the great Trogoautoegocrat. If we do it a certain way, something happens to us and to the planet; if we do it another way, something else happens.
All the world’s spiritual traditions have tried to orient us rightly here through a fundamental baseline morality: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Even in the absence of any further instructions, a simple adherence to the great moral precepts emerging from the first axial age will keep
humans basically in right alignment to perform their required part in the great exchange. The transmission chain will flow smoothly. The lion will proceed toward man.
But the shadow side of these ancient moral teachings is that they tend to rely on an individualized, fear-and-punishment-driven vision of an afterlife to motivate compliance. In the pervasively secular and skeptical culture of our times, where the fires of hell hold about as much clout as Santa or the tooth fairy, the human moral compass has increasingly defaulted to unabashed self-interest. “Go for the gusto!” “Get all you can get!” “You’re worth it!” We all know the slogans; they are the mantras of our brave new world. And that is not merely a personal moral failure, claims Gurdjieff; it is an ecological catastrophe, for it amounts to a systemic breakdown, as across a broad sector of an entire pivotal species, “the lion devours the man,” and the flow of those essential energies between the realms is destabilized.
Even at the turn of the last century, Gurdjieff was already deeply concerned about what he saw to be a significant drop in the level of being required of our human species and hence of our ability to play our required part in the cosmic homeostasis. There’s little question that the past hundred years of our
planetary unfolding have more than borne out his concerns. When we collectively devolve, simply using our ambition and cleverness to live as successful lions, in that same downward spiral we fall below the critical threshold needed to maintain our place as “conscious human beings,” the fundamental pre-requisite for our full participation in the great exchange. When that function goes unperformed (or gets performed in a distorted or toxic way), it is not merely “our immortal souls” that suffer; the entire cosmic equilibrium is thrown out of whack.
I think we all sense in our bones that there is a closer and more organic connection than we would com-fortably like to admit to between the kinds of energies we humans pump into the atmosphere as the fruit of our moral actions and the tangible effects of this “imaginal pollution” on the biosphere. We sense this, but we do not know why, for the traditional metaphysical maps are still based on outmoded science, and the modern scientific maps (with the notable exception of the one proposed by Teilhard de Chardin, who was at least bold enough to make a first stab at a new paradigm) do not yet integrate — or in most cases even acknowledge — the moral dimension implicit in all this. What does the handoff between radial and tangential energy actually look like? In what sense is human virtue an actual “food” supporting organic life on earth? And where and how in our own work of conscious transformation does the exchange between the realms actually get played out?
These are among the crucial missing pieces embedded in those overlapping diagrams of the worlds we started to consider in the previous chapter. In this chapter I will continue to explore this perhaps strange new way of fitting the pieces together in the hopes that it might open up a fresh angle of approach to some of the tragic impasses (intellectual, spiritual, ecological) of our own times. As we move beyond the traditional moral arguments into a closer look at the actual mechanics of the exchange that goes on here at this all-important mi-fa junction point, I think we will see with deepening resolve — and perhaps with deepening “remorse of conscience,” as Gurdjieff would put it — why our human orientation toward the good is not a personal virtue but a collective cosmic responsibility.
The operative word for me is “collective.” As we human beings continue to increase our love for one another, unconditionally, even as the Lord of Love loves us each one, that collective Body will naturally and magically come together. We all know this. All that remains is for us to consistently do it. Our Creator needs us as One Body to do the Greater Works sorely needed in our world.
I leave you to ponder these things as I turn my attention to Holy Week when Christians the world over observe Lent with ashes on their foreheads reminding them of their earthen origin . . . and destination . . . one scenario anyway. I have another to share in my next post. Until then,
Be love. Be loved.
*Trogoautoegocratic refers to an open system dependent on external, higher forces. A system under trogoautoegocratic law will submit to a process of transmutation in order to sustain indefinitely. Transmutation is the generation of heat and light through conscious works and voluntary sacrifice.