Gurdjieff’s Ray of Creation: A Cosmic Symphony
“In my Father’s house are many mansions.”
* * *
BEFORE getting into the main topic of this post, I would like to share a comment on my previous post by my poet friend, Don Hynes, along with his songful poem of blessing:
“This is a beautiful post. The historical scheme may be questioned but the vibration is perfect. In this air cycle of awakening our purpose is to accelerate human conscious-ness that it may rise with the ascending vibration of the Sun enveloping the Earth. Of course the specific consciousness is my own, the individual always, but also to befriend each other in this task, those seen and unseen, known and unknown, that all may rise in this new day. If you will allow, I’ll close with a few poetic words that might add to your masterwork:
“We are an old people,
the stories say among the first,
who walked the land
when fresh with the Creator’s touch.
Though scarred with years of trouble
we still sing the blessing songs,
greeting the Sun each day
with the thankfulness it deserves.
And so I sing for you this morning
a song of your belonging,
child of a distant Light
and ancient Mother,
may you walk in beauty
all your days, and if forgotten
may this song remind you.“
* * *
THANK YOU DON. We are indeed “an old people” . . . and we live on an old planet in an even older universe. How old nobody can really know, though scientific estimates have been made. What is time anyway? Everything happens in this eternal now. There is, however, great but simple method to the ongoing unfolding evolution of the universe as it moves forward through cycles of chaos-to-order and dissonance-to-consonance.
As George Gurdjieff reminds us in his Law of Seven (also called the Law of Octaves) — which I explored in my previous post — “nothing continues forever.” Creation unfolds within an energetic and musical continuum. Or as Russell Walter postulates, “Everything that is, is of everything else that is. Nothing is of itself alone. All created things are indissolubly united”. . . and sing together the “Music of the Spheres,” as George Gurdjieff demonstrates in his “Ray of Creation.” And there’s no one more articulate and comprehensive in unpacking Gurdjieff ‘s complex and profound vision of “worlds within worlds” than Episcopal prelate and author, Cynthia Bourgeault. So I will share excerpts from her book THE EYE OF THE HEART in bringing you Gurdjieff’s cosmogony in the context of her life’s journey in search and discovery of the “Imaginal Realm”. . . and its location and function within the Ray of Creation. This first excerpt if from chapter two “Worlds Within Worlds.”
The Ray of Creation
Gurdjieff actually makes use of two cosmic maps, and to situate the imaginal sphere of operations within his teaching, you have to overlay them.
The first, and probably more widely known of these (because of its close tie-in with the enneagram and the Law of Seven), is his Ray of Creation, which, as I have mentioned already, is the Gurdjieffian version of the Great Chain of Being. In most respects this follows the standard processionary model of traditional [religious] sophia perennis metaphysics, with progressively denser and colder kingdoms emerging out of that initial fiery explosion of the divine will-to-form that sets the whole thing in motion. The counter-entropic trajectory is not at first clearly visible.
What is immediately interesting about this map, however, is that the entire ray is located within the physical universe — although of course, the word physical here must be expanded to the widest and wildest reaches of our cosmological imagination. Gurdjieff’s “Megalocosmos,” the vast celestial canvas on which his map is drawn, stretches even beyond the fourteen billion years of our present “universe story,” reaching back into that implicitly endless matrix from which big bangs emerge like virtual particles. It is on the grandest possible cosmic scale that his vision plays out.
So too, the realms on this ray are not named by spiritual or theological names, as is typical of sophia perennis metaphysics. You will not find here logoic realms, angelic realms, heaven and hell realms — or for that matter, imaginal realms. Instead, you will find actual inter-planetary locations, named in an order that some of you may find strangely familiar: dominus (Holy Absolute), siderum (all galaxies), lactera (Milky Way, our galaxy), sol (our sun),fatum (fate, our own solar system or sphere of planetary influence), mixtus orbis (“mixed realm,” our planet earth), regina coeli (queen of the heavens, the
moon) — or do, si, la, sol, fa, mi, re, do. (bold emphasis added)
Wait a minute! Isn’t that our modern Western musical scale?
Indeed, it is. And this is where the second fascinating feature of the Ray of Creation comes in. According to Gurdjieff, our modern major scale actually preserves in the names of its notes and the arrangement of its intervals a vestigial memory of an ancient esoteric teaching about the “cosmic solfeggio,” not only in the way in which the created order originally came into existence but also in the way in which energy is continuously transmitted and replenished along the Ray of Creation. That knowledge is still there, hidden in plain sight in the musical scale, to be dug out by those so inclined; its articulation dovetails precisely with what in the Gurdjieff work is known as the Law of Seven, the Law of World Maintenance.
This is not the place to get sidetracked into a lengthy discussion of the Law of Seven. . . . But from the point of view of imaginal exchange, it does yield up one very interesting piece of data, again a stable feature of the Law of Seven. If you look at the schematic that follows, you notice those two lines cutting across the map, between do and si near the top and between fa and mi closer to the bottom. These correspond to the “hesitation” points on the ray — half steps on the musical scale — where a new infusion of energy, or a different kind of energy, must be introduced in order to keep the whole ray flowing on trajectory. Otherwise the whole thing will veer off track or be halted at a threshold it cannot cross. In Gurdjieffian terminologies, these are the “shock” points, the places where the entire progression is the most vulnerable but, equally, the most permeable.
GURDJIEFF’S RAY OF CREATION
In the case of the higher (do-si) shock point, that bridging energy is provided by the will of the Holy Absolute, still close enough to ground zero to easily span the descending gap. In the latter case, as we will see shortly, the shock point falls right between fa, the traditional endpoint of the so-called subtle realms, and mi, the beginning of those “dense material realms.” And this is exactly the place where traditional metaphysics and I locate the imaginal realm. In other words, the mi-fa shock point falls right in the middle of the imaginal intertidal zone. In and of itself, if you ponder it deeply, this realization will tell you most everything you need to know about the primary cosmic function of the imaginal realm and our specific human contribution to this sphere of operations. But since these ideas may be very new to some of you not previously familiar with Gurdjieffian metaphysics, rest assured that I will circle back in chapter 3 and unpack them much
I like this first map because it is real. Not only does it accord with a more contemporary understanding of the relationship between matter and energy, it also situates the whole unfolding here (admittedly a huge and vast “here”) rather than in some mirage-like “spiritual” realm that floats “above” our visible solar system like a huge celestial theme park. It calls us to order, to a path of transformation that does not lead us away from materiality but straight into it and through it. Particularly when we enter those two lowest realms, mi and re, we are talking about our actual earth and our actual moon, and we are discussing planetary evolution along lines strikingly parallel to Teilhard de Chardin’s. Nor will Gurdjieff let us off the hook here. For him, the major vehicle mediating that mi-fa shock is the biosphere — yes, organic life on earth! — and its ultimate recipient is the moon, not our eternal souls. And yes, our conscious attention and willing participation will certainly make a huge difference in how our contribution is mediated and in which realm it is received. But willingly or unwillingly the tribute is exacted, and it is paid in the coin of this realm, in flesh and blood. Our inner work exists within the Megalocosmos and for the sake of the Megalo-cosmos, not the other way around; it is important never to forget this.
Our own Earth realm has long been known on the cosmological maps as mixtus orbis, the “mixed realm.” While the full explanation for this designation is complex, something does seem to get mixed and mingled here. We humans are curiously bilingual; we speak the language of this world with all its charms and nuances, but we also strain toward that invisible other that seems to hover right beyond us in those dazzling glimpses and visions: that intuition of “another intensity,” in the words of T. S. Eliot, to which we know we also belong. That invisible but always interpenetrating other is the imaginal realm.”
The earlier metaphysical roadmaps, as mentioned, tended to draw a sharp dividing line between matter and spirit, with the result that the imaginal, hovering just on the horizon of our mixtus orbis, often appeared to be a world in itself, with no obvious commerce with our own. As the last outpost of the “spiritual” realms, how and why would it bridge the divide into the material realms? In the previous chapter I tried to recast this traditional metaphysical habit in terms of the more contemporary under-standing that there is in fact no such “divide” but rather a single continuum of energy manifesting in various degrees of subtlety or coarseness. Transposing the metaphysical map from its original Platonic milieu to this more Einsteinian one in fact takes us far beyond traditional esoteric understandings of the imaginal, which focused on the personal and elusive nature of this realm, into a new appreciation of its collective and evolutionary importance.
It was Gurdjieff who really got the ball rolling here by adding in the key puzzle piece (undetectable through the lens of traditional sophia perennis metaphysics), which he called “reciprocal feeding.” He proposed that along the entire Ray of Creation (his equivalent term for the Great Chain of Being), there is a continuous, active exchange proceeding in both directions — not only from higher realms to lower but also from lower to higher — in order to maintain the entire ray in a state of dynamic equilibrium according to a cosmic principle to which he gives the rather unwieldy name “Trogoautoegocrat.”
Mouthful though the term may be, the idea itself is a remarkably prescient attempt to view the entire created order as what we would nowadays call a “self-specifying system,” a whole greater than the sum of its parts, whose chief metaphysical feature is no longer involution — the gradual loss of energy as the lower end of the chain plunges steadily toward entropy — but rather an elaborate homeostasis that preserves (and even increases) the energy of the total system as each realm makes its required contri-bution to the whole.
Gurdjieff referred to this system as “reciprocal feeding” for good reason: the exchange he has in mind involves the actual transformation of cosmic substances based models—more like digestion than the simple information-sharing favored in contemporary consciousness . . . .
But the idea itself is fairly straightforward and so flagrantly timely for a planet careening toward ecological catastrophe that I believe it’s simply no longer conscionable to allow it to be held captive in a maze of Gurdjieffian Fourth Way esoterica. More to our immediate concern here, this broader vision of what amounts to a vast intergalactic bootstrapping is utterly essential if we hope to have some true feeling for what the imaginal realm is all about, beyond just some allusive bandwidth of inner guidance and bedazzling intensity. If exchange is indeed the principal business of this realm, we must picture this exchange from the outset as a two-way street. (All bold emphasis added)
WHERE IS ALL THIS LEADING?
That’s a very appropriate question to ask at this point in the series. My destination, after laying the groundwork, is the creating ground of the “Imaginal Realm” and the “reciprocal feeding” that takes place in the “exchange between the realms.” This is the realm where we’re destined to ascend in consciousness, where the two realms meet — and from whence we, as a “conscious circle of humanity,” co-create and recreate the “mixed realm” of the New Earth . . . and our moon, which is included in Gurdjieff’s Ray of Creation. Our fascination with going to the moon is significant at this time . . . but are we in position, mentally and spiritually, to take on the re-creation of our moon while our Home planet goes neglected and raped for her resources? I think not. We would treat Her Majesty no differently. But then, maybe not!
I do hope you enjoy flowing with Cynthia’s stream of consciousness as much as I do. I will share more in my next post, “Worlds Within Worlds.” As always, I welcome your thoughts, insights and inspirations. Until next time,
Be love. Be loved.