Ouspensky didn’t want his students to equate the Absolute with God. When he was asked if ‘Absolute’ was not just another name for God, he answered that it was not and then added:
The Absolute is the principle that lies in the beginning of things and behind everything. I never connected the Absolute with God in the religious sense. God in religion can do many things for you, but the Absolute can do nothing for you. ~ The Fourth Way
To be clear Ouspensky is not saying that they are separate entities, that there is God and that there is the Absolute. He is not saying that God hears man’s prayers and that the Absolute does not. In the sense that they both lie at the beginning of things and behind everything, God and the Absolute must be the same entity. God, in a religious sense, is different than the Absolute on a conceptual level because God can influence and help an individual man. The question is whether that model has a basis in reality. Does man, as we find him, with all his prejudices, his unfounded opinions, and his pretty squabbles have the ear of the being who lies at the beginning of things and behind everything? Or do we need another model?
We Live in a Bad Place in the Universe
The problem for us is place; that is, where we are in relation to the Absolute. Place in relation to the Absolute is not about distance as much as it is about the scope of perception. If we use man as a model and take his average lifespan to be 75 years, and a single perception to be 3 seconds, we can begin to see what our situation is in relation to the Absolute. The lifespan of the Absolute cannot be determined by us, but scientists believe that the universe is something like 14 billion years old, so, even though this is probably very low, it can help give us a sense of our place. A being with a 14 billion year lifespan, by using man as a model, gives that being a single perception of about 17.5 years. So for that being the entire life of a man would be played out in the equivalent of 13 seconds. Now try to imagine a night of earnest prayer, and what kind of impression this petition would make on such a being. In a 75 year lifespan there are 82,125 eight hour periods, so if a man’s life is equivalent to 13 seconds in the perception of God, then an eight hour period of prayer would be equivalent to 0.000158 seconds, that is, a period of time that would be so insignificant that it would be beneath the floor of perception that the Absolute touches. Even when we assume that this prayer is part of the Absolute’s awareness, we would have to conclude that it would be crowded out by longer and more relevant perceptions. By analogy, such a prayer might be compared to a single brain synapse (there are billions per minute) in the perception of man, and it is not hard to see that a single brain synapse is an event that is impossible for us to register in our awareness.
Let’s look at the assumptions we took to arrive at these numbers. The first is that the experience of God has certain equivalencies to our human experience; in particular that God does not live eternally in a succession of endless three-second perceptions, but rather that His moments are larger and longer and that this length of perception can be correlated with the lifespan of a living being, including human beings. Also, we assumed that the lifespan of God is equivalent to the lifespan of the universe. This is almost certainly an inaccurate assumption. First of all the lifespan of the universe is not, in our place of understanding, finished unfolding. There is good reason to believe that God has a lifespan that is considerably longer than his creation. We could have been justified taking the 14 billion years and multiplying it by 10 or by 100. But the 14 billion years is a convenient number because it represents the largest length of time that we can define.
In order to understand such a model, we need to come to terms with our idea of eternity and immortality. Eternity and immortality are not forever, at least not for us. Everything in the universe changes, dies, and is reborn, or is transformed into something else.
Nothing is immortal, even God is mortal. But there is a great difference between man and God, and, of course. God is mortal in a different way to man. ~ Gurdjieff (In Search of the Miraculous)
The law of seven does not allow anything to stand still. Either we are moving forward and changing or are falling backward. The concept of an unchanging paradise that goes on forever defies the laws on which the universe was created. At the same time we can say that there are worlds that are relatively eternal compared to the 75 years allotted to our physical existence. Relative eternity and relative immortality again depend on place, or the world in which a being has his center of gravity. On higher levels what this means is that the lifespan of a being is determined by the lifespan of the material (hydrogen) in which his vehicle is made.
The fourth (mental) body is composed of material of the starry world, that is, of material that does not belong to the solar system, and therefore, if it has crystallized within the limits of the solar system there is nothing within this system that could destroy it. This means that a man possessing the fourth body is immortal within the limits of the solar system. ~ Gurdjieff
The Ray of Creation
The Ray of Creation describes a string of seven worlds and the rate of vibration for each world. The difference in these worlds refers to seven different scales, not to position in the three-dimensional world that astronomers use to map stars and galaxies. It is a descending octave beginning with the Absolute and ending with our moon. The higher the rate of vibrations, the fewer laws the world is under. The number of laws begins with 1 with the Absolute and ends with the moon, which is said to be under 96 laws.
Of the seven worlds in the Ray of Creation only the two highest worlds are unavailable to man. Though man can be said to be connected to the five worlds, almost all human activity occurs in the bottom three worlds.
World 96. World 96 is represented in man by false personality. False personality is our opinions, beliefs, accidental thoughts, imagination, etc. In the ray of creation world 96 is represented by the moon. The moon, essentially a barren satellite of the earth, represents a lower world than our birthplace, the earth. We can say that when we live only in false personality, we live in a world below our natural state. Many of man’s social and environmental problems exist because he brings a lower world to life on earth. The possibility—every day it is more and more of an inevitability—that man will make the earth uninhabitable is a direct result of values and vices, like greed and fear, that exist only in world 96.
World 48. World 48 is represented in man by true personality. The intellectual center, when it works correctly, has the same vibration as world 48. True personality brings some intention to personality. It is an attempt to find the truth through the intellect. It gives a more truthful lens for us to look at the world than world 96. In esoteric circles esoteric knowledge is used to give man a more objective view of himself and the world. It is a process by which information from higher worlds is intellectualized and used to steer personality. In the ray of creation world 48 is represented by the earth in a strict sense.
World 24. World 24 is represented in man by essence. Essence is what we were born with, our talents, our limitations, and our natural preferences and aversions. The state of essence shares a rate of vibration with the correct work of the instinctive and moving centers. The physical body is an essence vehicle. In the ray of creation world 24 is represented by all the planets in our solar system. Essence is more than what we find here on earth, it is also the influence of the planets in our solar system. Though these influences have not yet been recognized by modern science, they have long been recognized by astrology and by esoteric maps like body type, which describes how the movement of the planets affects the endocrine glands in man.
World 12. World 12 is experienced in man through the higher emotional center and by the right work of the emotional center and by the sex center. The vibration of world 12 (hydrogen 12) is needed for both the correct working of the emotional center and the higher emotional center. When man’s emotional center works correctly, it is a simple step up to the higher emotional center because they both work with the same rate of vibration, but because of our sleep, the emotional center hardly ever works with its correct energy. In the ray of creation world 12 is represented by our sun. On the scale of the Ray of Creation you can visualize world 12 as the space encompassed by the light or radiations from our sun; that is, the whole of our solar system. Just to give some sense of the difference in scale, our solar system is thought to be 36 billion times larger than the earth.
World 6. World 6 is experienced by man through the higher intellectual center. World 6 in the Ray of Creation is represented by all the suns in our galaxy. Science only has a very approximate number for how many stars are in the Milky Way, but it is usually thought to be somewhere between 100 billion and 400 billion, so the scale or difference in space between world 6 and world 12, our solar system, is enormous. The higher intellectual center does not share its rate vibration with one of man’s lower centers. What this means in relation to our experience of world 6 is that the human element becomes significantly diminished. The size difference is telling, but the difference in the perception of time is more telling. As we suggested earlier the average lifespan of a man is about 75 years, and that would need to be compared to the entire lifespan of the Milky Way.
World 3. In the cosmos world 3 is said to encompass all worlds.
World 1. The Absolute, or the principle that lies in the beginning of things and behind everything.
The Ray of Creation describes a very specific octave that begins with the Absolute and ends with our moon. We must remember that the Ray of Creation is a ray that has only to do with man as we find him on earth. Because of our place in the universe, the descending scales of the ray move through our solar system, our sun, our planetary system, the earth, and end on our moon. If we lived on a planet in another solar system then the Ray of Creation would differ in that it would describe the scales, again beginning with the Absolute, that descend through that planet.
It also needs to be remembered that the Ray of Creation is a descending octave with the two necessary bridges at the si/do and mi/fa intervals. The si/do interval at the beginning is bridged by the will of the Absolute, and the mi/fa interval in the middle is bridged by organic life on earth. In the first interval, the will of the Absolute provides a bridge that allows the influences to move from the Absolute to world 3. In this case we can also say that the Absolute represents a separate octave in itself as it is represented by a do of another octave. The will of the Absolute sets in motion a new descending octave. The mi/fa interval is bridged by organic life on earth. Ouspensky says that the way that organic life receives planetary influences is invisible, for instance, compared to the obvious way the sun influences earth. What we can say is that without the influences of the planets organic life as we know it could not exist on the earth. The incredible diversity of life on earth needs an array of planetary influences; without these influences life might have existed on earth, but it could not have evolved or prospered in the way it has. The large number of species and types within species found on earth is a direct result of the nearly infinite ways in which different planetary influences can be combined. Though the planets themselves are not large in number, the position of each planet in relation to the positions of the other planets is enormous. These influences affect the look and the psychology of all living things on the earth.
Organic life on earth not only feeds the earth, it also allows the possibility of the passing of influences to the moon, the next note in the Ray of Creation.
The body is born and at the same time the soul is born too; it is simply part of the body, invisible, unknown to medicine, physics and chemistry. But without it the body cannot exist. When the body dies, the soul is free and is attracted by this big electromagnet—the moon. ~ Ouspensky
What Ouspensky describes here refers to a soul that has no will of its own, a soul that is barely known by the personality that rules the body in which it resides. All the work of conscious evolution is an attempt to avoid this fate.
The Ray of Creation explains many things that religion leaves unanswered. It explains, for instance, why God does not intervene on our level—why he doesn’t, for instance, relieve human suffering. The forces or laws that cause our suffering cannot be changed without changing all the other laws that are necessary, not only for our evolution, but also for our very existence. Suffering, as we generally think it, enters at the level of world 24, as a necessary part of having a physical body. If God wanted to give us a life without suffering, it would have to be a non-physical life or a completely different kind of physical life, both of which are impossible within the laws and principles that rule our present universe.
There are many changes we need to make in order to come to a regular experience of higher worlds. These changes can be best described as a change of being because the experience of higher worlds depends on our capacity to focus our being in worlds 24, 12, and 6 and on our ability to sustain states that generate energies that are difficult for us to maintain. A lot of the day-to-day, moment-to-moment inner work found in any legitimate teaching is based on specific exercises that are designed to teach us to sustain and transform higher energies. Self-remembering at its root is a method of focus. When the higher emotional center functions, it is self-remembering that helps us maintain the vibration of the intensity of the state. It helps keep our being focused there. Not identifying is a method of keeping our lower selves from interrupting the flow of the energy of higher centers. These exercises, as well as many others, all have specific purposes that help us not only bring higher centers to the forefront of our consciousness, but also to help us stay longer in higher centers when they appear, because in the long run that is our aim: to be able to live as much of our lives as possible while inhabiting higher worlds.
Higher centers and higher states, though often interchanged arbitrarily, need to be distinguished in the mind. Higher centers are just that, they are centers, in the same way that the emotional center and intellectual centers are centers, that is, they are centers with a specific energy and are part of our birthright as humans. We are all born with four lower centers and two higher centers. We may not use or inhabit higher centers, and we may even lose our capacity to experience them, but they are given as part of our human heritage. Higher states refer to the level of vibrations, or energy, that we experience: the higher the vibration, the higher the state. Another way to look at this is to say that there are worlds outside of us that have lower and higher energy. World 24, what we experience as essence, exists when a certain level of vibrations is reached. A forest, untouched by man, vibrates with the energy of world 24. If we walk in that forest, and if we are open to that energy, we can experience the vibration of world 24, but if we walk through the forest preoccupied with our problems or worried about what is going to happen in the future, we will be oblivious to the vibration of the forest and pass our time there in personality, world 96, a world of a lower vibration.
Higher centers are also like lower centers in another way; that is, they need to be filled with experiences. In other words, higher centers are repositories of higher experiences. In the same way that we can say that emotional maturity is the result of a capacity to focus our being in the emotional center and intelligence is the result of a capacity to focus our being in the intellectual center (both of these capacities may be the result of a mechanical tendency), we can say that true spirituality is the result of a capacity to focus our being in higher centers. A man who lives all his life in personality cannot be said to be spiritual, no matter what his religious opinions and convictions are.
If man were balanced, we would be able to say that the rate of vibrations of the state matches the center that corresponds to that rate of vibrations. But this is far from man’s situation. Negative emotions are a good example of wrong work of centers. An emotional impression needs to be transformed by the emotional center. The energy is too intense for the other three lower centers. When the intellectual center burns emotional energy, you end up with yelling or complaining, and when the moving center burns emotional energy, you end up with slammed doors or excessive hand waving or violence.
The point here is that if you do not partake of the energy of spiritual worlds, you cannot be spiritual, and the only way to partake of spiritual worlds is to connect your being to world 12 amd world 6.
The Ray of Conscious Influence
In the same way that we can map the descent of the Absolute’s influences in the Ray of Creation, we can also map an ascending ray that begins with the influences of our moon and ends with the influences of the Absolute. This ray, because it is either conscious or deliberate (in its earlier stages it cannot be said to be conscious) must remain small in comparison to the descending octave of the Ray of Creation. On a very large scale there are certain changes that depend on influences moving in a downward direction, and though ascent is possible, it cannot become so large that it begins to affect the momentum of the unfolding of creation. To put it plainly, you and I can go against the Ray of Creation, but all of humanity cannot because that would affect the downward movement of influences.
Like the Ray of Creation, the Ray of Conscious Influence is specific to us, to our place in the universe. The worlds are the same ones that we just examined, but now we will look at them from the point of view of an ascending octave as it applies to a man who is involved in the long work of conscious evolution.
Do. World 96. In the first place at the bottom of the Ray of Conscious Influence, the do of the octave, we have the influence of the moon or false personality. People who are under the influence of world 96 live in an imaginary world. They do not use the reason or the common sense that is part of the make-up of the human mind. In a real sense they live below their natural powers. In other words, they have human functions that they neglect or seldom use. They have opinions rather than knowledge, and they react to impressions based on their fantasies and opinions. There is no lack of examples of people who are under the influence of world 96. They are in the news every day.
Re. World 48. In the second place, the re of the octave, we have world 48. In the Ray of Conscious Influences world 48 can be broadly seen as reason. Science is a tool or a process of world 48. When men began to think about their problems and use their reason to solve those problems, then they can be said to be under the influence of world 48. Knowledge is gained through experiment and reason. In conscious evolution this level is represented by true personality, which is simply a way of thinking about the world using esoteric knowledge rather than ordinary knowledge. It is not presence, but it is a step toward presence. Since this is a ray of influence, we have to begin to see that, in some cases, the people who are under the influence of world 48 can teach or affect the people who are under the influence of world 96. Again there are many examples of this, but there are more examples of the failure of people under the influence of world 48 to be able to reach people under the influence of world 96. The ideas of climate change come from world 48 and are defined and promoted by scientists and social thinkers. They have knowledge about this important issue, but that does not mean that they will be able to simply present this knowledge to people who are under the influence of world 96. As we have seen in the last decade, both with climate change and the COVID crisis, it is very easy for people to deny knowledge, even when that knowledge is designed to protect them and help them prosper. Here we come to a principle of teaching when it comes to conscious evolution: evolution is not about knowledge, but about learning to function in higher and higher worlds. In this case, we can say that a man who wants to pull someone up to world 48 must not only give him facts and knowledge, he must also teach him to function in world 48. In other words, he must not only give him the facts and knowledge he has uncovered about climate change, he must also teach him to use his reasoning skills because there is no distinction between facts and fantasy in world 96. This means that for people under the influences of world 96 the decision to believe the facts of climate change or in another opinion that has captured their fancy is arbitrary. Without the reasoning skills to decide, he cannot make an informed decision.
Mi. World 24. In the third place, the mi of the octave, we have world 24. In the Ray of Conscious Influence world 24 represents essence, or the beginning of self-knowledge and presence. To be under the influence of world 24 means, among other things, that we are aware of planetary influences from our solar system. A good number of scientists and philosophers believe that a reasoning capacity is the summit of the human experience, but this model puts reason quite low on the ladder of human potential. Reason is a necessary part of the whole of our endeavors, but it is ranked below self-knowledge and the tools that give us self-knowledge like self-remembering. For instance, a scientist may have very high reasoning skills and not know himself. A scientist who invents weapons, by the nature of his choices, lacks self-knowledge and presence. If he saw all the families and loved ones his weapons would separate, and all the men and women and children who would be killed, injured or crippled, he would not want to connect his essence to such a damaging field of endeavor. Essence is the starting point for all the exercises of conscious evolution. Personality cannot remember itself. Very often modern spiritual teachings begin with the idea that our thoughts are not real. This, in the best cases, describes a teacher under the influence of essence who is trying to pull his students up to essence from personality.
Mi/fa Interval. Before we come to the next note we need to understand how the mi-fa interval is bridged. In all ascending octaves an interval occurs between the third and fourth notes. If the octave is to continue ascending, then a force from the outside of the octave must come and bridge the interval. This force not only keeps the octave ascending, it also creates a jump in the rate of vibrations. In other words, after the interval is bridged the octave will continue on a higher level of vibration or growth. An ascending octave can be said to move at a certain rate of vibrations, and at the interval, the force that bridges the interval increases that rate of vibration. (The reverse is true for a descending octave.) In this case we can say that the fa note will begin at a higher level perception.
Before we can understand what this higher level is, we must know what force it is that bridges the interval. This force is death, or rather death and rebirth. In order to understand this, we must step back and look at the first three notes and how they differ from the fourth note. What we see with the first three notes is that they represent the journey of man. The work they entail can be pursued in the creation of a better and more satisfying experience on a strictly human level. The fourth note, fa, is the first note in the octave that we can say to be under metaphysical influences. So the jump requires more than what is required to proceed through the first three notes.
The death that bridges this interval works on different levels. On a small, moment-to-moment scale this death is not physical death, but the death of false personality, some would say the death of ego or lower self. Typically a man can only experience three worlds at the same time. If we have a center of gravity in world 48, then we can see and respond to the world directly below, world 96, and the world directly above, world 24. So when we have our center of gravity in world 24, world 96, for a time, becomes a world that is dead to us. We can also say that the threat of inevitable death of the physical body is a motivating force for us to find ways to reach a metaphysical level, where death, at least the death of the body, is not relevant.
On a very large scale we can say that, if our being is to keep ascending through different lifetimes, we need to die and be reborn physically many times in order to reach a point where we have permanently bridged the mi/fa interval in the Ray of Conscious Influences. What this would mean is that we would create a permanent center of gravity in world 12.
Fa. World 12. The fourth note in the Ray of Conscious Influence, fa, is world 12. This is the world of the higher emotional center and is represented by our sun. In religious language, this is the realm of the soul. In the language of theosophy, it is the plane of the astral body. To teach from world 12 on our level does not require a permanent center of gravity in world 12, as this is very rare. As we learn to sustain world 12 for longer and longer periods of time, it becomes possible to spread the influences that are available there. We can say that in essence, we discover ourselves and that the higher emotional center is the beginning of the dissolution of self, but at the same time it is also the beginning of a more permanent capacity to focus our energy in the astral world. Just as teaching on the level of world 48 is about teaching reasoning skills, teaching from world 12 is about teaching or demonstrating the methods that help people in world 24 focus their energies in the higher emotional center. Self-remembering is one of those methods and so is external consideration.
Sol. World 6. The fifth note, sol, in the Ray of Conscious Influence is world 6. This is the world of the higher intellectual center and is represented by our solar system. In religious language, this is the realm of the spirit. In the language of theosophy, it is the plane of the mental body. The longer we can sustain our focus in world 12, the more possibilities we have to be influenced by world 6. Real knowledge of the world and the universe comes from the higher intellectual center. Though it isn’t exactly like this, we can think of the higher emotional center, self-consciousness, as a world that contains all the knowledge that we need to know about ourselves, and the higher intellectual center, objective consciousness, as containing all the knowledge that we need to know about the universe. Really the difference is that the higher intellectual center contains a much larger scale of detachment from what we think of as self. If we think of the higher emotional center as the beginning of the dissolution of self, we can say that the higher intellectual center takes that dissolution a giant step forward. Teaching from world 6 would involve instruction in the transformation of suffering and the transformation of death. If we examine the world around us and try to judge how many people we know who would be willing to consider training themselves in such transformations, we will be able to see how few people there are that are ready for such an instruction.
It needs to be noted that a being with a permanent center of gravity in world 12 and/or world 6 has the ability to sustain an existence without a physical body and that their influence can be transmitted to those still struggling to focus their self in higher centers. Ouspensky referred to this invisible influence as higher school.
La. World 3. The sixth note, la, in the Ray of Conscious Influence is world 3. We are not born with the hardware to experience world 3. The higher emotional center can give direct knowledge of the world 12, and the higher intellectual center can give direct knowledge of world 6. But there is no center in man that gives us a direct knowledge of world 3. World 3 is made up of three aspects or forces that come directly from the Absolute: consciousness, will, and unity. In theory, a man who had a permanent center of gravity in world 6, the highest possibility of man, could have glimpses of world 3, and this could be thought about as a man returning to God.
Si. World 1. The last note of the Ray of Conscious Influence is world 1, the Absolute. If the communication of the whole of the Absolute is possible for a man to experience, it could only come directly from the Absolute. Any communication of the Absolute by lesser beings would by definition communicate only a portion of the Absolute. In other words what would be communicated would be world 6. It also should go without saying that any description, image, or vision of the Absolute would again describe a portion or different aspects of the Absolute.
It is important to remember that diagrams and descriptions of the Ray of Conscious Influence are only a way of dividing up and thinking about the long octave of conscious evolution. Our moment-to-moment experience of these influences is more complex. People, who are not fixed in opinions that limit their possibilities, can be open to influences of three worlds at the same time. In many cases what appears to us as a conflict is our being trying to decide between lower and higher influences. At the same time, the Ray of Conscious Influence explains many things about our place in the scheme of worlds. For instance, it explains why a man who has a center of gravity in world 96 cannot be taught by a man who has a center of gravity in the higher emotional center. The discrepancy between the perception of world 12 and world 96 is too large. You cannot pull someone directly up from false personality without giving them the experience of worlds 48 and 24 first. This isn’t literally true; a clever teacher can give a man a shock that propels him into higher centers, but the experience will be meaningless without a capacity to reason and some self-knowledge. It will either disappear or, what is worse, be distorted to support baseless fantasies. It also explains why the most popular contemporary spiritual teachings are intent on two main points: that our thoughts are not real and on the task of learning to discover and be ourselves. These teaching are all about bringing people from world 48 to world 24 (essence). Many more people can relate to this type of teaching because it doesn’t tackle the difficult task of providing knowledge and methods that bridge the interval between world 24 and world 12.
I have provided no si/do interval in the Ray of Conscious Influence. Normally, in an ascending octave, there is a final interval to be bridged that would lead to the do of the next octave, and even though we could conceive philosophically of a level of influence beyond the Absolute—we could imagine, for instance, that the Absolute had some external forces that influenced the manner in which He created the universe—it would be ridiculous for us, in our present place, to try to go there.
Even though man in his present form cannot have direct experience of the Absolute, the possibilities of what he can experience are far more creative and dynamic than anything our religious models have promised us.
Part of what the Ray of Conscious Influence teaches us is that the fourth way in the Gurdjieff tradition is not a strict monotheistic model. It shows the necessity of help on every level from a level higher than that level.
If we take the Absolute as God, we can see that it has no relation to us. The Absolute is God for gods; it has relation only to the next world, that is, World 3. World 3 is God for the next world, that is, World 6, and also for all the following worlds, but in a lesser and lesser degree. ~ Ouspensky (The Fourth Way)
The idea of a ladder of help does exist in a very simplified form in organized religion. In Christianity there are saints who can offer assistance. Though this idea was far more pervasive during late antiquity and the Middle Ages, a time that has been called the ‘cult of the saint,’ it does have some relevance today.
The First Three Notes of the Ray of Creation
If we are to understand world 6, the highest world available to us, then we need to have a basic working understanding of the two worlds above world 6, the Absolute and world 3. We can begin with Ouspensky’s description:
The Absolute is the principle that lies in the beginning of things and behind everything.
In this all and everything we have not only the present moment, but all the past and all the future; not only what has been and will be in the universe, but also everything that has the potential to be actualized.
If the universe at this moment could be compared to a single apple, then the Absolute would be every apple that has ever existed, every apple tree that has existed, every drop of soil or moisture that nourished every apple tree, and every man or woman, animal or insect that was nourished by eating an apple, as well as every painting or drawing of an apple, and every poem or description or thought or emotion that has been to connected to an apple.
The simplest way to look at world 3 is that it represents the initial step in the creation of the universe and that it is the only step that has a conscious origin. It is best not to think of world 3 as a division of the Absolute, as there can never be divisions in the Absolute. If an artist uses his will to create a masterful painting that can exist as a separate world, it does not imply that the artist had to divide himself in the act of creation.
Gurdjieff gives us names for the different forces that make up world 3: Will, Consciousness, and Unity.
These names are very simple designations that refer to enormous, complex forces, and there are other names.
Power (Meher Baba)
Awareness (Meher Baba)
Bliss (Meher Baba)
These three are not the only words we could find that attempt to name these forces, but I think they are most objective. In Christianity, for instance, we have the Father (2), the Son (1), and the Holy Ghost (3), but the theology that we find in early Christianity has a tendency to use physical or human symbols to represent higher worlds: the father and son, as well as the son of man and the son of God, thus giving it a more human face. The son of man is Christ’s term for the higher emotional center and the son of God is his name for the higher intellectual center. If the New Testament is read with this in mind it can reveal subtleties that are ordinarily lost. This predisposition, in Christianity, to try to bring complex theological concepts down to a human or physical level has probably accounted for, to some extent, the enormous popularity of Christian faith, but it has also been partly responsible for its deviations into ideas that erroneously connect the physical body to immortality.
The forces of world 3 are so enormous and powerful that they are beyond human comprehension. What we think of as mind does not exist beyond world 24. (Mind in higher worlds is replaced by will.) And the emotions that support us in worlds 12 and 6 would be out of their depth here.
These universal laws are really beyond our mind, so with all the wish to study them you will not understand much more than words. But even this is useful. ~ Ouspensky
At the same time we cannot have any understanding of world 6 without some knowledge of world 3. World 6 is represented by the law of three acting on the three elements of world 3. In other words, the experience of world 6 is that of the three elements of world 3 combining in the only six ways that they can combine.
Will, Consciousness, Unity
Will, Unity, Consciousness
Consciousness, Will, Unity
Consciousness, Unity, Will
Unity, Will, Consciousness
Unity, Consciousness, Will
In order to explain how these forces combine to make the different aspects of world 6, I will reframe them with simple active words so that when we combined them we can begin to see that they form sufficiently different expressions for world 6. We replace will (1) with ‘action,’ consciousness (2) with ‘awareness,’ and unity (3) with ‘identity.’ Identity in this sense refers to the constant change of a sense of ‘I’ or focus. These changes, though they are real on a human level, are more pronounced (and more under control) in higher worlds.
It would also be good to put them in some order, so that when we place them in an enneagram we can see that there is a natural movement from one to the other. This is what we end up with:
1. Awareness, Action, Identity
2. Action, Awareness, Identity
3. Awareness, Identity, Action
4. Identity, Action, Awareness
5. Action, Identity, Awareness
6. Identity, Awareness, Action
I should also be clear that this interpretation has a perspective. In a sense this is a catalog of the aspects of world 6 that we as human participants in this world are most likely to find, or, more correctly, to take away and communicate. This is an attempt to provide a way of thinking or a map of the mystical experience of world 6, and so it can only serve a very limited purpose.
1. Awareness, Action, Identity. Creation or Conception: on the highest level this triad can be said to represent God (1) conceiving (2) the universe and everything that come from it (3). In this case, creation and conception are the same. There is no distance between the conception of the universe and the creation of the universe. They are a single act. The mystic who touches this aspect of world 6, understands that his reality is part of a creation. He is a result of an idea and is humbled in the realization.
2. Action, Awareness, Identity. Embodiment or rebellion: in this triad God’s will (1) acts on His depth (2) and creates a universe of separate entities (3). In coming closer to God a man must rebel against His wholeness and separate his self by embodying his focus in a small piece of God’s creation. The mystic who touches this aspect of world 6 understands that his present self is incomplete and transitory. He understands that it is his work to transcend his identity by allowing the kernel of his being to be affected by the higher worlds.
3. Awareness, Identity, Action. Inspiration: God or higher beings (1) act on lower entities (2) and inspires those lower entities to action (3). On a human, mystical level this triad shows God actively instilling knowledge or understanding in the being of the mystic, which results in an action. The result of this action could take many forms: it might be a piece of music, a painting, a poem, a story, a religious text, a fairy tale, or a charismatic action. The revelation might also be the discovery of a natural law, or a tract of philosophy, or an esoteric interpretation, and so on.
4. Identity, Action, Awareness. Veracity or truth: In this triad, an entity (1) of God’s universe discovers (2) an aspect or a portion or a law of God’s being (3). From a human perspective this triad finds that we are active and God is the result of that action. Here we can say that God is truth, or rather that truth is the uncovering of an aspect of God. The difference between this triad and the triad of inspiration is that the result is God, not an action.
5. Action, Identity, Awareness. Selflessness: God’s will (1) overcomes an entity of the universe (2) and this results in an awareness of the consciousness of God (3). The mystic in this triad finds his self in the passive position and is being acted upon by the will of God. We can think of this triad as the one that compels masters like Meher Baba to say ‘I am God.’ (Of course, it is far more complex than this.) It is also likely that this revelation is what allowed Gurdjieff to write in Life is Real Only Then When I Am: ‘He is God and I am God! For all and in everything we have the same possibilities and impossibilities!’
6. Identity, Awareness, Action. Transcendence: In this triad an entity (1) becomes aware of the consciousness of God (2) which leads to change (3) or transcendence; that is, the original self becomes something other than what it began as. As with the triad of embodiment, we again find the consciousness of God in the second or passive position. But here it is not God’s will that is active, but the mystic. He finds God and thus transforms his self.
If we look at the arrangement of these triads in the diagram of the First Three Notes of the Ray of Creation we can see that one does naturally lead to the next. We can say that creation leads to embodiment, and that embodiment overcomes its limitations through inspiration. And that inspiration leads to truth, and that truth leads to selflessness, and that selflessness leads to transcendence. But it should be clear that these six aspects in an actual higher experience may be mixed or bleed into each other in any possible way, and also that the names that I have given to the six triads that make up world 6, are not important because they are, by necessity, subjective. What I want you to understand are the principles behind the words and diagrams.
Part of what we can take from this diagram is that metaphysical experiences of the highest order are subject to the law of three. It also demonstrates how the Absolute’s influence reaches us, not directly by answering prayers, but within the confines of specific triads that are a combination of His basic elements. It can be said that the Absolute’s influence is part of every world, as all the laws that form lower worlds come from or at least contain some element of the three forces of world 3, but in lowers worlds these forces, even though they might exist, are not generally available. If we take Plato’s analogy of the cave, we can say that the sun, which exists inside the cave as rumors, is not available as a reality as long as the prisoners are chained inside the cave and believe that the puppet show is real. The sun is a part of their world but it is hidden from them, and will remain hidden until they can break their chains and see that the puppet show is an illusion.
I also want to say something about the idea of bliss that is very often an element of higher worlds in eastern teachings. In the physical world the closest mechanical state we have to bliss is sexual excitement, but sexual excitement is not a very good representative of what is possible in higher worlds. Sexual excitement and even orgasm need not contain an element of detachment. And detachment is an essential ingredient of what is called bliss in higher worlds. Meher Baba was very clear about this. This is from a chapter in his Discourses called ‘The Conditions of Happiness:’
The kind of detachment that really lasts is due to the understanding of suffering and its cause. It is securely based upon the unshakable knowledge that all things of this world are momentary and passing, and that any clinging to them is bound eventually to be a source of pain. ~ Meher Baba
The question is: how does this detachment bring contentment or bliss? Here again we come to the idea of a larger scope of perception and to Gurdjieff’s statement that a man possessing the fourth body is immortal within the limits of the solar system. If the higher intellectual center is a vehicle with a lifespan of the solar system (billions of years) then it must also give an enormous scope of perception. Remember that our present scope perception of three seconds is based on an average lifespan of 75 years. Think about it this way: what if you were able to look at your entire life in the same way that you now look at a five-minute inconvenience, like waiting in line at a shop. If you had that kind of scale and relativity, if you understood that all the suffering and chronic pain and problems in which you now identify are an insignificant part of the lifespan of the entirety of your being, wouldn’t that give a kind of bliss or contentment? Even a glimpse into such a world, assuming it could be retained, could be very liberating.
God and Love
It’s impossible to speak about God without saying something about love; the problem is that to say that God loves us is a misnomer because our idea of God’s love is limited by the center of gravity of the influences we are under. We can say that there is a love for each world, except world 96 (you cannot derive a real quality in a world that is based on imagination). In world 48 love is an idea, a quality to inspire to. World 24 is about finding oneself, and so our definitions of self get in the way of our ability to love broadly. Tribal love and family love are examples of love in world 24. The love of a father or mother for their children could be considered love with the vibration of world 24. Romantic or sexual love uses the energy of hydrogen 12, but it is limited because its source is the sex center, which has a clear agenda of loving people it is attracted to and ignoring the rest. Love from the higher emotional center gives us our first inkling of spiritual love, but this love is rarely found in human interaction, and we are still 3 worlds away from God.
God’s love for us, if it exists on a human level, is more organic and amoral than what is usually supposed. If we remove human sentimentality from love, what will be left is any energy that allows one entity to communicate or know or inhabit another entity. Without the force of love, the universe would be a world of entities locked in the hell of their solitary, limited selves. Love can be seen as God’s greatest invention.
God gave us great possibilities and He has made help available at each step, but that He cares about the individual events of our lives, as a father might, is wrong or at least misleading. If we want to understand God’s love for us, then we have to think in terms, not of our present life, but in relation to the many lives we need to live in order to climb the Ray of Conscious Influence.
Think of the worst emotional or physical trauma in your life, and then consider that God’s love for you allowed that trauma in order that you might continue to come closer to Him. Look around at the world: all the war, sickness, cruelty, stupidity, and death are part of God’s plan to help you see that physical life is but a stepping stone to His love.
If you say that you love God, then you must love the scale of his justice and the insignificance, from His perspective, of the life that is now the source of your greatest joys and sorrows.
In essence what Gurdjieff taught was not that it is impossible for a man to know God, but rather that it is ridiculous to assume that man in his present state can have a relationship with God. In modern, popular culture, you commonly hear scientists and celebrities say that man invented God. From the point of view of the superficial evidence, this seems true, but only if you have no understanding of esotericism. The over-simplification of the concept of God as a father who watches over us and punishes us when we are bad was not invented by ordinary people who needed hope, but is rather the result of a distortion of more complex concepts like the Ray of Creation and the Ray of Conscious Influence.
We are in the middle of having a human experience, and there is greatness and poignancy in being human. But it is up to us to bring value and meaning to our lives and to begin to see them from a scale higher than the confusion and uncertainty that has become our daily world. Without a doubt to love others without prejudice is a good method to achieve the energies that are needed to bring us to higher worlds, but to have an idea of where we are and where we are going is also important. There are guides to help us move from world to world, but it is our responsibility to recognize them and to benefit from their influence.