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For the Week of January 13 – 19: Microcosmos and Megalocosmos

The left image is of a human brain neuron; the right image is part of a galactic cluster.
[From Mark Miller/Virgo Consortium/Visual Complexity]

On that day, you will realize that I am in my Father,
and you are in me, and I in you. 
- John 14:20
 
Knowledge begins with the teaching of the cosmoses.
- G. I. Gurdjieff, as told in P. D. Ouspensky’s In Search of The Miraculous, p. 205
 
Living in freedom requires that we recognize the connectedness that is a basic reality of our existence. We are wholes within wholes; all we do affects all the other wholes of which we are a part. We are always becoming part of a greater whole, trusting that the Creator is continuing to create in and through us. Living in freedom means being content to be incomplete and unfinished, not judging ourselves or others, for everything is incomplete (cf. Matthew 7:12). Christian life is to live attentively to the intricate connectedness of all that exists and to engage evolutively in love.
- Ilia Delio, The Unbearable Wholeness of Being, p. 196
 
 
We begin our yearly exploration with an introduction to life and the body, as illuminated by the Work idea of the microcosmos and megalocosmos. G.I. Gurdjieff stated that sacred knowledge begins with this ancient teaching, which "helps us to understand our place in the world."
 
As G.I. Gurdjieff explained to P. D. Ouspensky, "The teaching of the two cosmoses is known from the Cabala and other more ancient systems. But this teaching is .… merely a fragment split off from another, much fuller, ancient esoteric teaching about cosmoses or worlds, included one within another and created in the image and the likeness of the greatest of them, including in itself all the others. 'As above, so below,' is an expression which refers to cosmoses. But it is essential to know that the full teaching on cosmoses speaks not of two, but of seven cosmoses, included one within another. Seven cosmoses, taken together in their relation to one another, alone represent a complete picture of the universe" (Ouspensky, In Search of the Miraculous, p. 205).
 
The smallest cosmos, according to this ancient teaching, is that of the atom, the microcosmos. The next smallest cosmos is us – the human cosmos, which Gurdjieff called the tritocosmos. The cosmos above ours is the planetary world, or the mesocosmos. Gurdjieff emphasized, "Each cosmos is a living being which lives, breathes, thinks, feels, is born, and dies. All cosmoses result from the action of the same forces and the same laws. Laws are the same everywhere. But they manifest themselves in a different, or at least, in not quite the same way on different planes of the universe, that is, on different levels. Consequently, cosmoses are not quite analogous one to another" (Ibid, p. 206).
 
The Jesuit priest and paleontologist Pierre Teilhard de Chardin expresses this same principle in terms of evolutionary processes: "From the cell to the thinking animal, as from the atom to the cell, a single process (a psychical kindling or concentration) goes on without interruption and always in the same direction. But by virtue of this permanence in the operation, it is inevitable from the point of view of physics that certain leaps suddenly transform the subject of the operation" (The Phenomenon of Man, p. 169).
 
A key point in this teaching on the microcosmos and megalocosmos is that of relationality – that  we cannot understand humanity on our own terms as an isolated creature, in which all the rest of creation functions as a static backdrop. Rather, our meaning and purpose is relational to the cosmoses below and above us. As Gurdjieff explained to Ouspensky, this relativity of cosmoses means that real increase of consciousness is a movement in both directions at once: "The conditions of the action of laws on each plane, that is, in each cosmos, are determined by the two adjoining cosmoses, the one above and the one below. Three cosmoses standing next to one another give a complete picture of the manifestation of the laws of the universe. One cosmos cannot give a complete picture. Thus, in order to know one cosmos, it is necessary to know the two adjoining cosmoses, the one above and the one below the first, that is, one larger and one smaller. … The broadening of consciousness does not proceed in one direction only, that is, in the direction of the higher cosmoses; in going above, at the same time it goes below.  . . . In reality this means that if, for instance, a man begins to feel the life of the planets, or if his consciousness passes to the level of the planetary world, he begins at the same time to feel the life of atoms, or his consciousness passes to their level. In this way the broadening of consciousness proceeds simultaneously in two directions, towards the greater and towards the lesser. Both the great and the small require for their cognition a like change in man. In looking for parallels and analogies between the cosmoses we may take each cosmos in three relations: 1. in its relation to itself, 2. in its relation to a higher or a larger cosmos, and 3. in its relation to a lower, or a smaller cosmos" (Ouspensky, Op. Cit., pp. 206-207).
 
Contemporary Gurdjieff scholar and Maronite priest Joseph Azize provides further insight into this powerful Work idea, emphasizing first of all: "The key to our present position is that reality, in its absolute sense, is a unity, possessing the unity not of a monolith but of an organism, for the Whole is One 'as an apple is one.' However, we ourselves, as parts of that Whole, do not possess the internal unity or individuality that we should. Lacking this unity in ourselves, our faculties cannot work as they should, and so cannot perceive objective reality. If we desire to change, then this diversity needs to be harmonized into or at least toward a unity, albeit a relative unity, a sort of microcosm of the larger cosmos. … Between ourselves on this planet and the Whole, there are other levels or orders, such as those of the solar system and Milky Way. Each of these can be considered as a 'cosmos' because it is 'a living being which lives, breathes, thinks, feels, is born, and dies.' Each cosmos being a living entity, it follows that, in our cosmos, [t]here is only one life and we are the highest biological development [in this cosmos]. This single life force manifests throughout the cosmos: In human life, it can be developed into 'objective reason,' which has the corollary that the purpose of human life is 'to attain within ourselves objective reason'…. and evolving to serve higher purposes as a higher form of life" (Gurdjieff: Mysticism, Contemplation, & Exercises, p. 53).
 
Contemporary science can help us ponder the relationships between ourselves and the cosmoses above and below.  In November 2020, two Italian scientists, astrophysicist Franco Vazza and neurosurgeon Alberto Feletti, published an article about the startling physical similarities between human brain neurons and the largest known entities in the universe, massive cosmic structures known as galactic clusters or "the cosmic web." The two scientists remarked, "Although the relevant physical interactions in the above two systems are completely different, their observation through microscopic and telescopic techniques have captured a tantalizing similar morphology, to the point that it has often been noted that the cosmic web and the web of neurons look alike. … It is truly a remarkable fact that the cosmic web is more similar to the human brain than it is to the interior of a galaxy; or that the neuronal network is more similar to the cosmic web than it is to the interior of a neuronal body. Despite extraordinary differences in substrate, physical mechanisms, and size, the human neuronal network and the cosmic web of galaxies, when considered with the tools of information theory, are strikingly similar" (Vazza and Feletti, "The Quantitative Comparison Between the Neuronal Network and the Cosmic Web," Frontiers in Physics, November 2020).
 
Homework
 
Embody these ideas: 
  • Look at yourself in a mirror, without distraction or straining. After a few seconds, try to recognize yourself simply as a human cosmos.  Observe what changes. Next, looking at the palm of your open hand, try to become aware of the atoms within it. What might the human cosmos seem to be from the atom's perspective? Observe your state (thoughts, feelings, sensations) as you ponder this. Next, look toward the sky (preferably at night) and try to become aware of the relationship between you and the vast cosmos, in the same proportion as between yourself and the atoms within. Observe your state. Conclude this exercise by seeing whether you can maintain awareness of all three cosmoses at once.
     
  • In any interaction with another person, silently allow yourself to become aware that they too are a human cosmos. Try to see them in relation to the atoms within them, as well as the cosmos of which they, just like you, are a part. Observe any changes this brings to your personal interaction.
     
  • After your morning or evening Centering Prayer period, watch this short video (about 4 mins. in length) which shows us a contemporary model of our galactic cluster, Laniakea ("immeasurable heaven"): contemplate the meaning of this teaching and the greater cosmoses of which we are a part.
     
  • Read and reflect on the Work idea of microcosmos and megalocosmos as explained by G.I. Gurdjieff to P. D. Ouspensky in In Search of the Miraculous, Chapter 10, pp. 205-216. 
January Practice: Holding A Rock
 
Rocks are tangible evidence of ancient history and our interconnected with the elements and cosmic evolution of planets. Our January practice helps us feel into our January theme of "Being Here." Rocks help us see physical embodiment. Take a rock, perhaps you have a favorite rock from a place you visited. Or, perhaps you will take a walk this month and find a rock. Pick it up. Hold it. Then open your palm again. Feel the weight. Feel the texture. Feel the size and shape. Inter-be with the rock and see what connections arise as you participate in conscious connection with the rock.
 
A few conscious people can produce more energy of high quality than thousands, or even millions, of people who exist automatically in sleep. … It doesn't usually occur as the result of a single moment of self-abandonment, but rather as a repeated choice to respond to the impulses that reach [one] from [one's] own higher nature, of which [one] is not yet fully conscious.
- Maurice Nicoll, Centenary Fragments, p. 109

Attend The Journey School Thursday Class Tonight: All are encouraged and welcome to attend tonight's class to sound a do for the new year’s curriculum and to review these teachings:  7:00 pm Central Time via Zoom only.

  1. Click on this link and Zoom should open automatically on your laptop or tablet: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/9961019778?pwd=aVFLZVQwNGZSNkQ4TDRTUW9yU1Ywdz09, or
  2. Open Zoom, click on Join Meeting and enter this meeting ID: 996-101-9778, passcode: CCH
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