The enneagram of Being, Grace, and Mercy
on this diagram were originally published in the Zen, Yoga, Gurdjieff blog
We say we search for Being; yet why do we search?
Being is comprehensive. This means that there is no non-Being, except in God, who perfectly encompasses and embodies all possible aspects of manifestation including, mysteriously, its absence. So Being is comprehensive; asleep or awake, aware or unaware, conscious or unconscious, there is no state in which Being is not already present and absolutely manifest. Being does not depend on our consciousness or Presence; it is already present with or without us.
The question is never whether a tree falls in the forest where there no one is there to hear it, but whether there are trees and forests; and there are always trees and always forests, regardless of the sounds they make, or the silence they emanate. Being is like this. The entire manifest universe is Being; its movement through Time is being; its infinite aspects are Being. This is what we mean when we say Being is comprehensive; it comprehends, that is, it perceives, it grasps mentally; although this idea is far too limited to properly define it.
We might say it includes all; and this would be closer to the mark. It is the dharma, the eternal manifestation of Truth. Truth and Being are actually and functionally indistinguishable from one another, and one wonders now why this perfect congruence isn't spoken of more often.
We call the congruence between Truth and Being perfect because there can be no separation of the two; they are a mirror that reflects itself. The words that create distinction between them are actually a source of confusion; ultimately, there can't be any difference between the two.
So we understand completely that the manifestation of reality, as we call it, is perfect, which is why Ibn Arabi referred to God as The Reality, that is, the absolute condition of perfection. It must be understood without any doubt from an inner point of view that this condition of perfection is inviolable, eternal, and infinite, and that there is nothing that can corrupt it. While the mind is only capable of formulating this, the feeling and the body are capable of sensing it directly under the right conditions. This is what is called enlightenment, although there are many degrees of this, and each one of them is partial, because Reality as we experience it is irrevocably doomed to partiality of one kind or another.
In the largest sense of the cycle and of the Absolute, Being occupies the note do on the enneagram, and represents God the Father in the holy Trinity. It represents the Absolute manifestation of Being, which is distinct from the subjective or relative manifestation of Being which is always represented by the note sol.
The idea that Being is comprehensive is an essential one, because the word has a greater meaning than would be apparent on the surface. —com denotes synchrony, simultaneity, and togetherness, and —prehend is related to prehensile, that is, that which can grasp; so the word means to hold together, to grasp together, to bring together.
Being brings all aspects of Reality together: it is an expression of totality, which is why the word defies any easy descriptions.
Because Being is comprehensive, there is no need to search for Being. There is only the need to become manifest within it; it is already here, and issues an eternal invitation.
If there is a search taking place, we would have to say that Being searches for us.
Being, Grace and Mercy are the great forces of the Holy Trinity which drive the engine of the universe; and the second of these forces is Grace.
Grace is inherent; by this we mean that Grace is an inalienable property of all that is. All of creation is imbued by Grace; there is no object, event, circumstance, or condition that is without Grace, because Grace enters all of creation through the original Will of the Lord.
Grace is the force of Gurdjieff's conscious labor, because it represents and provides what he called the "first conscious shock." That is, Grace is the Will of God, which is always and forever consciously exercised—the consciousness of God, penetrating and giving rise to all things. Nothing arises except Grace creates it; and nothing exists except Grace sustains it. So Grace is both Creator and Sustainer; and it is ever-present.
If we somehow think that Grace only enters some situations at some times, and is not eternally present, we err; because Grace is ever-present and in all things, even things we think are the worst of things. Grace cannot be measured by the human instruments of good and bad, for within the Will of the Lord there is no good or bad. We say the Will of the Lord is unquestionable because it comes from a higher level and cannot in any way or measure be subject to human understanding. Grace, when it seems to appear to us, only does so because we are seeing what was always already there; and it is merely a function of our fallen nature and our ingratitude that we do not sense the Presence of Grace and its action in all things and at all times.
When we seek to place ourselves under the influence of Grace and its action, we pray, "I Am, I wish to Be" because to be is to be within Grace; for Being has no other place than within Grace, since that is its primary and functional condition. Grace can't be separated from Being because it emanates from the great and most holy, absolute do of Being; insofar as we -re-align with Grace, we enter Being.
This is the action of God's consciousness within the octave. It supports all of the further evolution that can take place after it; and nothing can take place else Grace is invoked.
Grace is not special, any more than God's consciousness is special; they are inevitable. Grace is, instead, fundamental; its action binds the three lower forces of body, intellect and feeling together, creating a whole that can cross into the manifestation of real Being at sol on the left side of the enneagram. This natural process ought to take place at all times and in all things.
So let's not speak of Grace as though it were distant or unattainable. Let us sense it together in the full and perfect knowledge that it is present now—and that we dwell within it in every moment.
If we're fortunate, once in a while, we may actually sense this with our higher parts.
Grace takes on an infinite number of aspects because of its inherent power to reconcile the right side of the octave, to reconcile the otherwise independently functioning forces of materiality, desire and power.
The Mercy of God flows in [all] created beings, and courses through the selves and essences.
—Ibn Arabi, The Bezels of Wisdom, chapter XXI
Mercy, as I pointed out in a quite recent post, is the higher of God's qualities that becomes manifest in material reality; and Mercy is assured.
This is because Mercy cannot be withheld. If it were left to mankind, Mercy would be in scant supply; for we are fundamentally unforgiving creatures and don't understand what mercy is. Real Mercy flows downward in infinite abundance from the Lord, and is dispensed without regard to circumstances according to His infinite generosity.
God's Mercy exceeds his wrath (cf. Ibn Arabi) in all measures. Any perceived failings of the perpetual operation of Mercy are misunderstandings; because only man has the capacity to be unmerciful. So Mercy, which Gurdjieff called the force of intentional suffering, is not only God's Love for His creation in perpetual action; it represents God's willingness to forever take on the burden of man's transgressions without judgment. Mercy is unconditional; it falls on the worthy and unworthy alike.
Because mankind does not understand either the burden or the obligation he is under, this was acted out both symbolically and literally for mankind by Jesus Christ in His crucifixion. The act was meant as a personal reassurance from God that no Being would be abandoned to judgment alone, but that Mercy would be shown to all. There is an irony, and a tragedy, in man's belief in a supremely or fundamentally angry or judging God, for such a thing is quite impossible. This is why Mercy is assured.
Buddhism understands this concept from the perspective that all sentient Beings will attain enlightenment; and Gurdjieff encoded the idea of the bodhisattva vow into his fifth obligolnian striving.
Mercy, as the second conscious shock, occupies the last position between the notes si and do on the enneagram, and is the Divine force that makes the return to the heavenly realm possible. God, having originally emanated the entire universe and all that is from the depths of His Divine Being, swallows it whole again; in this sense, God takes responsibility for all that he has created and everything that happens. To take responsibility is Merciful; and this gives us a number of clues as to the nature of the action that is necessary in order to return to God.
Everything is required to return; nothing can remain where it is. (see section 5 of the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy entry on Ibn Arabi for his cosmology of the Return, which is intimately related to the cycles of the enneagram.) There are two kinds of return: voluntary and involuntary. This particular question has a number of aspects too detailed to expound here, but suffice it to say that a deeper understanding of Mercy would engender trust in the Lord, which is actually a very high level of inner development rarely attained by human beings. Trust in the Lord—illustrated by Abraham's willingness to sacrifice his son—knows no objective limits if it is fully developed, which was the original point of the story. Such trust relies on an infallible inner understanding of the absolute quality of Mercy; and we can perhaps agree that, categorically, we don't have it.
Yet Mercy is assured. And this takes place through a perhaps unexpected and definitely misunderstood vehicle, which will be discussed in the next essay.
May your soul be filled with light.
nb. Readers interested in examining more material the subject of Mercy may to turn to chapter XXI of The Bezels of Wisdom by Ibn Arabi, The Wisdom of Dominion in the Word of Zakariah—a piece which, despite its brevity, encapsulates an exactly correct understanding of the subject. You will find no better authority.
Death as a Grace
We live in a universe of contradictions. The Alpha and Omega of the contradiction are our separation from God and our wish to return.
This contradiction takes many forms; in its essence, every subsequent contradiction (and there are an infinite number) arises from this primary contradiction, which is inescapable. All desire, all longing, which arises instantly upon the manifestation of material existence, is a longing for the return to God.
There are two paths to return to God – the voluntary and involuntary path. Gurdjieff actually laid out the schematic for this in Beelzebub's Tales to His Grandson, in which he described a universe which originally allowed everything to automatically evolve back into God. It underwent a catastrophic change that ultimately frustrated this straight or involuntary path, requiring" shocks," or interventions, in order for things to move forward.
This allegory is an abstraction of the difference between a universe of involuntary, or automatic, return to God and one where choice becomes the fulcrum.
Sufi metaphysical arguments would pose that the idea of return to God is an illusion, simply because nothing can leave God in the first place — everything is contained within Him. The idea, well known in Zen Buddhism, that nothing can be separated from the Dharma is essentially the same idea; but in the broad sense of metaphysics as we examine them in the context of both of the Gurdjieff work and Christianity, as well as other cyclical cosmologies of the descent and ascent of energy, there is a separation and a return. The reason for the differences in concept arise in the tension between the transcendent and the immanent, which are essentially irreconcilable at this level – except by the mechanism of death.
I could write about this at much greater length, but instead I'm going to try to get at the heart of the emotive questions here.
We are separated from God; and we go through life unknowing, struggling, clearly incapacitated in our ability to understand that separation or its implications. There is a tremendous emotional vulnerability created, which generates all of the fear we feel about ourselves and about life. We have lost our trust.
Yet, God has sent us a guarantee of Mercy, epitomized by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ; and we are also guaranteed Mercy through death.
Death grants us an irrevocable return. This is actually a huge gift; yet, perversely, we have turned it into a terrifying experience that everyone fears. The reason that near-death experiences generally involve an ecstatic encounter is because the return to God is a return to Perfection; and every Being is not just offered this movement back into the Divine, we are required to participate in it. That's because death is not the arrival of something foreign, alien, or inimical to life; it is a return to our own nature. The nature of the soul and of Being is transcendent; it comes from a higher level, and its restriction to a body and a set of habits on this level is a limitation it suffers in order to broaden its experience of itself.
So Death is a Grace.
It is a conscious work undertaken to allow the surrender of consciousness back to its own source.