Commentary

by Lee van Laer

 

Originally published in the Zen, Yoga, Gurdjieff Blog, Sept. 9, 2012

 

It occurred to me this morning that the enneagram beautifully embodies the progress of every Hero Myth, if we examine the relationship between the chakras and the diagram.

The first subordinate note in the diagram (first as opposed to the supreme note Do) Re, represents the underworld, earth, or materiality. This embodies the significance of the root chakra. It represents the world of manifested reality, what Ibn al Arabi called the immanent—as opposed to the transcendent, Do, which is the origin of all material reality. There is actually a close relationship between the transcendent and the imminent at this point, which is why the God Brahma, God the Father, is associated with this chakra. (see "Kundalini," Ajit Mookerjee, P. 39.)

The second note Mi represents desire. It is, appropriately, the sex chakra. The encounter of material reality with itself gives rise to desire, represented in the Hindu tradition by Vishnu, the all pervading essence of all beings. In a certain sense, it indicates that the manifestation of material reality inevitably gives birth to desire. The ultimate root of the desire, which springs from the existence of awareness itself, is to return to its source, but entrapped within material reality, there appears to be no way to do that. Desire alone certainly can't do anything. It must raise itself to a higher level, one with force, in order to accomplish its aim. If it fails to do that, it is trapped in an internal and destructive cycle of materiality and sex, or, at best, materiality, sex, and force. This triad is represented by the right side of the diagram.

The third note, Fa, represents the solar plexus chakra, source of fire, force, or power. (The Chinese call this region the Dantian—energy field.) Material reality, having given birth to desire, engenders the forces necessary for action. The shock tween the two notes represents an obstacle that must be overcome, a task that requires conscious labor. In myth, to succeed, every Hero must fully engage in the two tasks Gurdjieff proposes: conscious labor and intentional suffering.

The fourth note, Sol, embraces the heart chakra, and manifests the hero. Material reality (represented by the right side of the diagram) embodies the conditions that produced the hero, whose action alone can move the story forward to produce a resolution. The God associated with this chakra is Vayu, representing breath, or life force. Only the hero can breathe life into this situation. He represents an emotional quality, the action of emotion itself.

The fifth note, La, represents the evolution of the story, the myth itself, which can take place as the circulation engenders a steadily expanding field of action for the myth. The Hero's progress (the story) serves as a rite of purification, exactly as the Vishuddha (throat) chakra is said to represent. Intriguingly, it also represents the spoken word, an essential part of every hero myth.

The 6th note, Si, represents the third eye, Ajna, or spiritual wisdom. The story—the progression around the cycle—must lead the hero to wisdom, spiritual attainment, and order to accomplish the task, overcome the first obstacle (shock) through his labors, and eventually meet the second obstacle—the final step between him and the return to the absolute (the “happy ending) through intentional suffering.

The progression around the enneagram in and of itself is straightforward. But it's the relationships within the law of seven (the six notes delineated by the red lines in the above diagram) that are interesting to me today.

In the initial state, material reality (1) interacts with force (4) which creates desire (2). Desire (2) needs insight, or wisdom, in order to avoid becoming destructive, and it thus connects with wisdom (8), a much higher level of vibration, seeking help. Compare this to the Sufi interpretation of the same subject in Ibn' al Arabi's work, as recounted by William Chittick in The Sufi Path to Knowledge:

"It is clear that a certain hierarchy exists among the names. For example, God does not do something (power) without wanting to (desire). He cannot desire to do something without discerning its situation (knowledge). And he cannot have knowledge without existing in the first place (life). (The Sufi Path of Knowledge, State University of New York press, 1989, p. 23)

Because wisdom is so much higher in the order of vibration then desire, it can only send help in the form of a hero (5) to move the process forward from the initial triad (1, 4, 2, or, material reality, force, and desire.) The hero represents the heart. And the heart must be purified (passing through 7) in order to attain wisdom.

The Hero has to engage in action (7) which affects material reality (1) in order to move the process forward.

The left side of the diagram represents heart, purity, and wisdom—the three qualities which are needed in order to elevate the progression back to its original source.

In other words, the numerical progression 142857 recapitulates the myth of the hero; and the enneagram powerfully reconfigures it, reflecting universal cosmological actions that take place in the Law of Octaves. Gurdjieff referred it to as the Law of Octaves because every octave is a refractory entity under these same "alchemical" principles, and follows the same general line of development.

The five variant iterations found in Gurdjieff's multiplications convey additional, evolving information about relationships as they develop on the path. So the multiplications are not just a numerical series, they are a metamorphic language, a form that embodies an ancient form of storytelling.

The heroic myth follows the progressive development of the chakras; the stories are orderly because they reflect the law of octaves, the process that informs the cosmos. In this version, the hero myth is not a tale with a beginning, a middle, and an end; it's a tapestry that reciprocally informs and reinforces itself.

This heroic path is in its essence identical to the Path of the Yogi... and, indeed, Paramhansa Yogananda advised us all to become the heroes of our own personal path.

I respectfully hope you will take good care.

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