In his book “Beelzebub’s Tales to His Grandson”, in the chapter “The Holy Planet Purgatory” Gurdjieff writes about three “being-bodies”, or the “existence-bodies”: the lower being-body (the planetary body), the intermediate being-body (the body Kesdjan) and the higher being-body. The lower being-body is given to us automatically. The intermediate and the higher being-bodies are formed through personal effort from special kinds of unique cosmic substances. According to Gurdjieff, in the process of a person’s dying, first the intermediate being-body separates itself from the planetary body and mixes with the substances of its own element, and when the higher being-body separates from the intermediary one, it does not dissolve, but returns to its source, which is called Sun of the Absolute.
Gurdjieff suggests that in a certain moment several centuries ago people have lost interest in the obtaining the intermediary and the higher being-bodies, and as they were not given to us automatically, these two bodies ceased to be present in the perception of contemporary human beings, who believe that either they are in possession of those bodies or they have no need of them. To those who have real need of higher bodies Gurdjieff says: In order to obtain those bodies people one must create them by means of “conscious labor” and “intentional suffering”. Otherwise this assertion could be formulated thus: the human being has no soul, and if one wishes to get it, he needs to assemble it on his own. This kind of formulation impedes the understanding of the fact that in reality one needs two “souls”: the Kesdjan body and the higher “being-body”, though it emphasizes the extremely important idea of the need to build those being-bodies.
All of this distantly reminds the widespread theosophical and anthroposophical perceptions of the physical, ethereal, astral and various other bodies within the human being. According to these systems, these “bodies” exist as part of the human being; it is only necessary to discover them within oneself and, so to say, to actualize them. Analogous ideas could be found in Judaism, Hinduism and Buddhism.
My aim does not include drawing comparisons of different theories. I follow a purely practical goal: to highlight the essential aspects of spiritual Work, the way they are seen in light of the examined perceptions of Gurdjieff.
To begin with, I would like to remind the reader that the contemporary human being is a helpless plaything of his physical and social aspects. It could be said that he is completely empowered by a various autonomous physical and social mechanisms. In this sense it said that he is not capable of “doing” anything. All of his attempts to sew together the decrepit fabric of life or to stitch patches to Mullah Nasr Eddin’s robe end in failure – at the end the robe is in the condition to be thrown away.
The same thing could also be said about the so-called spiritual seekers, attendees of workshops and readers of esoteric books. In the best case they bring in only slight alterations to the functioning of their physical and social mechanisms by means of practicing one or two daily meditations, regular attendances of spiritual practical sessions and, in addition, reading books and articles about those questions which interest them. These activities are clearly not enough in order to create an alternate inner space, capable of protecting a human being from the dominance of physical and social forces. In most cases this “spiritual” activity or “work” merely leads the seeker to a form of the psychological compensation or to absorption of bits and pieces of the leader’s energy which he swiftly loses and their swift loss through one’s own his “leaks”. This sort of a spiritual seeker does not set out before him an integral goal of formation (or actualization) of higher being-bodies, since he essentially understands that for setting out and fulfilling this task he has neither the determination nor the necessary resources.
Nevertheless, it is particularly the development of the higher being-bodies is the sole content and goal of spiritual work. Such was the goal for numerous centuries of Buddhist, Christian, Sufi and other spiritual practice. At the present time among the so called spiritual seekers we can find sporadic and sluggish efforts or the complete absence of any efforts, and the presence of colorful imagination, which convinces them in what is contrary to the actual state of affairs.
So how could the problem of assembling higher being-bodies pass out of the realm of fantasy and dreaming and into the realm of actual practice? How is it possible to create a type of durable fabric of inner life or the Sacred Lining which would also permeate and transform our outward life by providing it with a real foundation? It is the problem of creating an additional layer, which would be organically connected with the external fabric of life? Let us remind ourselves of Mullah Nassr Eddin’s robe, all in patches and holes, the lining of which is made of gold and gems.
We are as of yet quite far from obtaining gems. This work of forming a new integral layer of ourselves is to be done in secret and silence. This must be a continuous tight lining bearing no holes or seams. But where could we find the energy for this type of work? What ideal image should be taken for a model? How could we build a plan for our work?
The energy for the work must be earned for us by ourselves. We must take care of discovering for ourselves the source of energy and to stop up all of our “leaks.” Our attentiveness would help indicate to us where to search for the source. Obviously, it must be searched for within ourselves. A person must not steal the energy of his spiritual instructor; on the contrary, he must share part of his own with the latter for his extensive quantity of work.
The intended image of oneself and the plan for the work should be created only within the spiritual domain of the instructor. In this same space this work must be carried out. This work may receive the blessings of Heaven, and then the gold and gems will glitter in all their supernatural colors and shades. However, it could also be left unrewarded, and we must be ready for this too.
Nevertheless it is not the spiritual instructor who makes the crucial decision, and it is not he who carries out the work. He could only provide a few hints of what types of robe linings exist in the spiritual world. There is a lining created from the Sacred Silence, from Prayer, from Gratitude or from Self-Remembrance. There also exist linings the names of which are Artistic Chaos or Magic Will. Such are also the appellations of the ways leading towards the creation of these sacred linings.
Some identify this Sacred Lining as God, others – as the Kingdom of God, still others – as the Cosmic Consciousness, still others – as “gold” or as the “Firebird”. Gurdjieff named it “the higher being-body”. There are many who speak about it but there are very few of those who undertake the task of obtaining it.
These kinds of Linings cannot be sewed on to the time-worn dressing gown of Mullah Nasr Eddin; such types would tear its limpid fabric. What is indispensable here is the “intermediary lining” – the intermediary “being-body” or the Kesdjan body. It is also created by persistent labor of the undertaker of the heroic quest, and it is formed simultaneously with the “highest body” by intense work; it is built simultaneously with the higher being-body from the substance of attention by permeating the physical body with pure attention. The thrust forward and stimulus for this refined and intense work on its creation is given to the undertaker of the quest by his spiritual instructor, however, he carries it out individually and secretly.
For whom is it not proper to start this work? For those who want to verify each move of theirs with their spiritual instructor, for those who wish to receive all of their instructions from the instructor and not from the work itself, and for those who are used to asking more for guidance rather than acting initiatively. Also for those who expect to suffice without a spiritual instructor, walking blindfold and proud of being a “cat who walks by itself”. For those who discuss their work with their friends. For those who wish to cheat the Firebird. For those who are not ready to give back generously what they have obtained – to pay on the horizontal plane for vertical elevation. For the person who wishes merely to toy with serious things it is better to give up such an intention, since this is a dangerous game.
There are few of those remaining who are ready for loneliness and hard labor. They are attentive towards each word of wisdom that is brought to life in the process of the work. To those come understanding and help.