George Gurdjieff

Why Things Don't Turn Out As Planned: The Law of Octaves

A few years ago, there was a video circulating around the internet of a blogger who was trying to start a blog, but kept getting distracted with Facebook and Reddit, so he posted an ad on Craigslist for someone to sit beside him and slap him across the face every time he got distracted.  Apparently the experiment was relatively successful.  Maybe not everyone has wished for a personal slapper, but everyone has certainly experienced the dissapointment of having started at point A with every intent on reaching point B by a certain time, and then, hours later, found themselves deep in something else. 

A talk every grad should watch- Attention is the new scarcity

At school, we've got our grade 8's "graduating" soon, and high school was let out last week.  University's been out for a while.  But even if you're not graduating, and you're already out in the big bad world, this talk is for you.  It's called the Video of the Week, but I think it's the Talk of the Century. 

I follow this investor named Fred Wilson,

Clarity in the Mind

 Image from meditateinlondon.uk.org. 

Image from meditateinlondon.uk.org. 

I've only listened to one talk in this Enneagram Global Summit thing- the one between Jessica Dibb and James Flaherty, the founder of the coaching school New Ventures West.  It was good.  But what I got out of it was not the information on the types so much as fascination with their clear minds, and their ability to hold a thought, to remember, and to finish their thoughts.  One thing Jessica Dibb does really well is listen- she's the interviewer, and it must be said that she's a Type Two, although not all Twos are necessarily good listeners.  After someone is done speaking, she'll say "thank-you, and I was especially touched when you said this and this and this", and she remembers the exact phrasing they used like three or four or five minutes after they said it.  I'm impressed.  She must not have a cell phone or a busy job.  (Just kidding?  She runs a spiritual school, so I'm sure she's busy- she just probably runs it and doesn't let it run her. ??)

Working in an elementary school with the expectation that I'll complete a full workload while being interrupted by kids, teachers, parents, the phone, and a very intense principal every 5 to 30 seconds has taxed my brain over the last three years to the point that lately I haven't been able to complete nary a thought while still in my head.  Writing is different because you can get distracted and come back to it.  While in conversation or trying to maintain a thought stream in my head, I just trail off and get frustrated and give up.  When I was in university, I used to be able to do a lot more in terms of just thinking silently in my room, putting ideas together as I read, but I can't sit in silence as comfortably as I used to and just read.  It's like I expect to be interrupted at home too.

One weekend a few months ago, I decided I was going to work on my memory, so as I was doing tarot cards for the morning, I forced myself to remember each card in the nine-card spread after I'd put them back in the deck.  I did this for about an hour and it wiped me out mentally and even like physically for the entire weekend. 

I wonder if meditation is all you need to get as clear in the mind as Jessica and James (and the other Enneagram teachers).  I know Gurdjieff's students had amazingly clear memories and thoughtstreams.  I wonder, also, if I can use the interruptions as food for the work, like use them as reminders to come back to myself.  I feel like that's something Gurdjieff would say.  This is why Alzheimers has drawn so much of my attention lately- I'm understanding what it's like to lose a bit of my mind.  I'd like to get it back.

Are There Two Dualities?

Yesterday I wrote that to be able to teach the Enneagram well, you have to be able to describe the human condition in your own words, like what are the hallmark sufferings and glorious potentials of being human that differentiate us from animals?  In terms of the suffering part, I thought, that

What it means to be a fourth way student

I was surprised to see that this Enneagram Global Summit thing was offered during the day.  Usually they record it for people who have to work during the day, but I couldn't find where it said that.  I signed up anyway, thinking, "oh well, I can listen in during my lunch hours."  When I got the e-mail confirmation, I eventually found where it

A Bit of a Blow from Cynthia Bourgeault

THis was not what I needed this morning.  I think I'm getting up early to get in some new insight on the Law of Three before work and instead Bourgeault decides to fill three pages of her book with a line she draws in the sand between true Gurdjieffians and modern Enneagrammers who "only use the outside of the circle".  I have zero time for small-mindedness and I can't believe I sacrificed some of my eight hours of sleep for this bullshit.

A Call to Inject the Third Force into Feminism

One of my favorite bloggers, Joanne Wilson, often posts about feminism in tech and entrepreneurship, and while I'm glad for such a smart cheerleader and champion, I see the feminist moving is in great need of an esoteric boost to maintain itself as a serious voice with the next generation of torchbearers.

I'm a feminist in the sense that I'm a woman who's bowled over with gratitude every time I'm reminded of what the suffragettes went through to bring us the vote.  One of the first things I plan on doing after I've crossed over to the other side is to run over and get a spot at their feet to hear their stories (and then right after that, I'll be making my way over to the story-telling area by the men and women who fought for the 40-hour work week, some other heroes of mine.)

The problem is that feminism has gotten a bit long in the tooth in its current day incarnation, and it's definitely not because our hearts aren't in the right place, it's just that more is being revealed to the Western consciousness that we can work with, and it's becoming clear that without that material, we're stuck in dualistic thinking.  Watching feminists blast out the same subejct matter today without using the "third force" is getting lame and boring, and it absolutely shouldn't be, but what new thing is there to be said on the topic that hasn't already been said?  Why isn't it having the same cutting edge as it used to?

I only have 7 minutes to complete this blog post, so just really quickly, dualistic thinking is- let's say- the plane, or the medium, in which the human ego operates.  It sees reality in binary opposites.  When we meditate, however, reaching more and more integrative states neurologically, we bring the third force into play, revealing a third, but previously hidden dimension to reality that we couldn't see before.  This is called the Law of Three among Gurdjieffians, people who study the Enneagram and/or who read the works of 19th century esoteric George Gurdjieff.  (I've written about it before, and this is a video explaining it.)

There.

Now to veer off course for two seconds.  I don't actually believe in gender.  I think we're at a time now when plural genders have officially been recognized by western thought, that we can squint into the murkiness and see that personality actually runs deeper than gender, and those quirky personality differences within gender sterotypes are actually real categories of personalities that have been lurking under the broadly painted brush strokes of blue and pink. 

 My attempt at drawing George Gurdjieff, 2012.  He remains a controversial figure, but his insight into the human condition and its connection to the laws of the universe are undisputed.

My attempt at drawing George Gurdjieff, 2012.  He remains a controversial figure, but his insight into the human condition and its connection to the laws of the universe are undisputed.

Another widely held theory we must divest ourselves of to get to bring this baby home- Newton's first law of motion- that what goes into motion stays in motion.  We all know that when we put our minds to losing 20 pounds, if we do the same exercises over and over again for eternity, we're not going to lose 20 pounds.  We usually reach a point where we have to do something new or extra to keep the momentum going.  Like eventually we're going to realize we have to eat fewer fats, or start keeping track of our meals in a food diary.  With forward motion comes clearer consciousness, which, at certain points in the cycle, needs the Law of Three injected in it to keep the forward motion going.  That injection might look optional at a certain point, but given enough time, we're going to see how mandatory and essential it is to our homeostasis.  Gurdjieffians call this the Law of Seven, and it correlates to the musical octave of do to do, with two ternary injections in each cycle of seven to keep its forward trajectory going.

Therefore if feminism is an organism, and if we're to maintain its forward momentum, we need a third force injected right about now- that of mindful awareness of our egos so that we can see 1) in its fight for equality of the sexes- a very justified fight, it is inadvertently revealing a deeper current, a new and deeper level that is actually the essential battle ground for humans- that of our ego, id, and superego; or as the ancient Egyptians would have called it, our Set, Horus, and Osirus; and 2) once women have this awareness practice under their belts, they'll be infinitely more equipped to not only say new and innovative things about gender that haven't been revealed to human consciousness before, but they'll be able to develop in themselves what feminists have been saying it takes to do the practical things they need to take their place in this world like stand up for themselves, break glass ceilings, and demand and take advantage of flexible work schedules and quality child care.

Consider this a scribble on a napkin before work.  There is much more that can be said, and someday I will write a book about this, but I wanted to address some thoughts that have been coming together in my head.  We can't stay binary any more- we are going to run into the ground if we don't incorporate deep self-awareness practices like mindfulness as men and women.  Mindfulness is mandatory now.

Book Idea

A few years ago, I decided I was going to write two books; one at age 42 and the other at age 52.  (I was 32 when I made this plan, and 10 years away seemed safe enough.) 

The first book was going to be about the Law of Three, the Enneagram, and Feminism, which was going to be a game-changer that fills a lot of the emptiness of 21st century feminism; I wasn't sure of the second topic. 

Someone else has already tackled the Law of Three in the context of Christianity (although she does cover gender) in the beautifully-written, lucid, and intelligent book, The Holy Trinity and the Law of Three in exactly the same style I'd envisioned.  I am so very grateful for the intellectual model to follow that is the uncontrovertible authority on this topic, Cynthia Bourgeault. 

My second book, I've decided is going to be about politics and the Law of Three.  I believe great imapasses can be overcome if people learned how useful it could be in the public arena.  It's basically a problem-solving "tool" or mechanism, with the do-nothingness of meditation.  Its simplicity and exceptional practicality are one more reason I am so deeply in love with the Enneagram.

(If you look at the Enneagram symbol to the right, you'll notice it's composed of a circle, an equilateral triangle, and an odd-shaped hexad.  The circle relates to the Law of One, the triangle relates to the Law of Three, and the hexad, believe it or not despite its six points, relates to the Law of Seven, all holy numbers in several mystical traditions around the world.)

The Ball that the Greeks Dropped

 The law of three is an example of one of the lost principles of the Western tradition that the Greeks didn't pass on from the Egyptians. 

The law of three is an example of one of the lost principles of the Western tradition that the Greeks didn't pass on from the Egyptians. 

Because it's almost due at the library, I'm reviewing Zero: The Biography of a Dangerous Idea by Charles Seife.  I feel like the book is underrated in its importance.  It got a few remarkably ho-hum reviews from Scientific American and The New York Times when it came out in 2000, but in my view it deserves way more credit.  I don't know if Seife has a mystical bent, but to me, it lends itself to breaking down a big wall between Westerners and their souls.

As you might recall, I learnt about the Enneagram at a monastery in Winnipeg 4.5 years ago from a scholar who is little-known in the Enneagram community, David Walsh.  The context that he gave the Enneagram fascinated me, and that weekend has been emblazoned in my memory for the uniqueness of his approach.  He came at the Enneagram (which is a personality-typing system with a mystical side) from the point of view of the Classics- Pythagoras, Plato, the Enneads and the Divine Forms all led up to the modern-day Enneagram we know today.  (That he and his wife are retiring after teaching the Enneagram for 30+ years without passing on their knowledge to a successor is incredible to me and blows my mind.  I called him earlier this year in January to see if he'd be willing to talk about any of the Classical references further, and he declined politely.) 

Russ Hudson, one of the world's most renowned Enneagram teachers today also comes at it from a Classics point of view, but doesn't get into the Greek contribution as much.  His love affair is with Egypt, who gave the Greeks their ontology.  But we can explain a lot by how today's Western society got its flavor by looking at the Greeks, and that's exactly what Seife does in his book about the number zero, and the Greek philosophers' aversion to the idea it represented.  They limited their numeral system to the numbers 1 to 9 because of scariness of the idea of the void.  If it's possible to have a vaccuum, then the earth may not be the centre of the universe, and what does that mean for the "specialness" of mankind?  Early Greek philosophers worked their way around it, enabling Christianity to subsequently fudge its way around it until the Church was finally forced to deal with it after the dark ages, and it was actually Judaism that showed Christianity a way to work it into its theology. 

Islam and Hinduism were comfortable with zero.  Muslims were using it in their number system via algebra, and Hindus had been grappling with nothingness already way before Algebra came on the scene.

My argument is that the Enneagram's purpose was-- and is-- to show Westerners how to deal with their inner void, if you will.  That's why Enneagram teacher and historian Russ Hudson follows up Gurdjieff's quote, "The earth can only be saved when the energy of the West meets the wisdom of the East", with "But the West isn't ready to meet the East because we don't even know our own mystical traditions, so when we meet, how can we have a coherent conversation?"

When Westerners have been given the tools for approaching -- and integrating-- their inner void, they can start to solve some of the most intractable issues the world faces like terrorism, global warming, and growing divide between the rich and poor.  But until we have the emotional intelligence to approach that void, we'll just keep ramming the same truck into the same brick wall hoping for the same results. 

Seife's book outlines how poorly our post-Egyptian Western heritage handled the idea of the infinity and the void.  I propose that heritage is still having its effects on Westerners' mindset -- and therefore policy -- today.