Continued from Part One of this topic
In previous posts, we have seen that how we view and interact with the world is conditioned by how our egoic self has developed; from oneness with Mother in the womb, through birth as an independent entity, to the reactive adult whose life mirrors that of a suit of armour, grown, protectively, over the real and eternally-new Self.
We have referred to that inner being as Child of Light, and indicated that there is a method behind this image. But this is not the use of a psychological technique of regression to childhood. It is a fully conscious method that explores the level of self, but carries the hard-won adult discrimination with us.
This ‘adult’ capability allows us to examine the binding power of those early reactions to the world and see them in a way that acknowledges that they were ‘shocks’ to a young being which led to conditioning. This can seem contradictory: we began by praising the truth and rightness of the essence – our very real core – and showing the limitations of the personality – that suit of armour which has no real centre… save the real Self, which it sees as a threat to its control and so disavows. In truth we need them both. We should not underestimate either the power of the ego to resist, nor the determination of the inner child to live its life as an empowered centre of being. We can chose to avoid the struggle and live an egoic life, but, once glimpsed that would be to abandon something beautiful and uniquely ‘us’ in a way the ego can never be.
We need the wisdom and practicality of the personality, the egoic self, to function in the world. If we are to be mystical seekers, or even teachers, we need to be able to open the way to the essence, the true self, and empower it to use the channels of expression developed in that long journey to adulthood.
So, what is the method that combines these? All spiritual paths do this in one way or another. The value of the modern ‘mystery school’ is that it can hasten the person’s development because it is able to use, at least partially, the language of psychology – in particular esoteric psychology – and that reduces the need for much of the former trappings of spiritual teaching.
So, where does this leave us? If we are minded to follow a path that utilises modern knowledge we have only a few choices. This is not to say that traditional ‘ancient’ wisdom does not exist; it does; but finding a true and non-exploitative source is not easy. The findings of psychology have opened the doors to new passageways to the experience of the personal essence, yet psychology has other concerns than the spiritual.
The ancient schools of the soul knew how difficult it was to find paths to the soul from the outer armour of the egoic self. Often, the aspirant would have to renounce all worldly interests and live a humble life until the ego was depleted, and the real being could be glimpsed beneath the rust. This still exists. Many of the paths into Buddhism, for example, require such an approach.
In the West, we are steeped in busy and industrious lives. We are unlikely to be attracted by a process of renunciation of that nature. Is it possible, in such a society, to live ‘in the world’ and yet not be of it?
A controversial philosopher of the early 20th century thought so. His name was Gurdjieff. He developed a western-facing route to the personal essence that, if followed with discipline, enabled people to become aware of layers of their respective ‘selves’ in a short period of time. The route from there to real knowledge of the inner self – the essence – was a more detailed study, but that secondary journey was fortified by a glimpse of the real in the early stages of the Work. This method required no ‘guru’ to trigger the initial success, just some good companions along the way.
Gurdjieff rose to prominence before the emerging knowledge of psychology became widely known. His methods were adopted and adapted by those who believed that an esoteric form of psychology was of great value to the nature of the materialistic ‘West’. Of particular interest to these people was the potential for one of Gurdjieff’s teaching aids to be used within this wider context.
The enneagram, illustrated above, is a mysterious figure consisting of nine points arranged around a circle. The Silent Eye’s own version (above) also has a central triangle and a core. Gurdjieff claimed to have inherited the original symbol from a mysterious school he encountered on one of his many early journeys. He said it was a fragment of an unknown teaching whose use could reveal certain keys about how things happened in the world – particularly for those systems – human or industrial – whose nature was cyclic. You can read more about the enneagram here.
The Silent Eye is deeply indebted to those who took the enneagram and mapped it onto the patterns that were emerging in the study of egoic behaviour (see below). These patterns formed a nine-sided figure that mapped perfectly onto the Gurdjieff enneagram. Gurdjieff died in 1949, and did not live to see this development of his work. In his later teachings, he did say that it would fall to others to extend the use of this fascinating glyph.
Within a few years, the new groups had consolidated their knowledge, providing the world with a map of the outer layers of the egoic self, but one with a vital difference…
The enneagram developed by the esoteric psychologists linked the outer faces of the figure with the inner qualities of the personal essence – the very qualities that were and are our hidden, original nature. For the first time there came into existence a map that could chart the individual soul’s psychological growth from conception to the adult egoic self.
A map of the outward journey to egoic self is one thing. The return journey – which needs to be guided – is another. The outer layer represents a linked set of qualities, such as fear, deceit and flattery, which have been reversed from their original state in the perfect but vulnerable new-born. By experiencing the outer qualities in a Gurdjieff- derived way, we come to see the thinness of their existence, and to glimpse the pristine attributes that still lie beneath.
There are several schools that use this knowledge. Each one uses it in their own way. Within our own method, the enneagram map is used to chart an internal journey across three linked landscapes. The first, as you might expect, is a desert, where the individual Companion finds themselves stumbling upon a remote arena, and witnessing the end of a mysterious confrontation between the crowd and a ruler whose loyalties seem distant…
Mystery is important…. It is no accident that ‘schools of the soul’ that teach these paths to the personal inner state have always been called ‘mystery schools’, for they taught the mysteries of human existence: physical, psychological and spiritual. Each age of mankind finds new ways of telling this story. The age of esoteric psychology builds on what came before, but offers new, personal and exciting ways to enrich our lives and relationships; and to discover the origin of what is truly real within ourselves.
The journey requires an open mind and heart. It also requires dedication, but that is learned and practiced in the gentle introduction of the first three months of study. Beyond that, it becomes a habit to seek the personal Essence each day, and their is no greater delight in life than that dedication. We think that our busy lives, our cars, buses, trains, families, jobs and children are a hindrance to what calls to us from within.
Nothing could be further from the truth…
The physical and psychological conditions of our age are mirrored in the depth of help that lies just below our surface. The power with which we react in normal life can become a slingshot to that layer of real Self that lies within us. Our egoic natures are not negative, they are simply pointed the wrong way. The suit of armour needs a living body inside it, and then it may find that its metal skin is too thick, after all. Within these new methods, our busy worlds provide the perfect ‘temple’ in which the real self can, gently, emerge to claim its life. All it takes is that first step.
References to key teachers in other schools who have helped develop the spiritual enneagram:
Stephen Tanham is a director of the Silent Eye School of Consciousness, a not-for-profit organisation that helps people find the reality and essence of their existence via home-based, practical courses which are low-cost and personally supervised.
His personal blog, Sun in Gemini, is at stevetanham.wordpress.com.
You’ll find friends, poetry, literature and photography there…and some great guest posts on related topics