The Art of Memory 2: Giordano Bruno and the “Shadows”

imagesLet’s continue with some considerations on the “Art of memory”. In the previous post we stated that the archetypes, in their original, essential form, can be “reached” through associative chains and correspondences. For the Renaissance Magus, those archetypes represent the “language” through which God expresses himself and, at the same time, becomes understandable to human beings.


This concept, which is the essence of the whole of Renaissance magic, is marvelously revealed by Tommaso Campanella in his sonnet:


“The world’s the book where the eternal Sense

Wrote his own thoughts; the living temple where,

Painting his very self, with figures fair

He filled the whole immense circumference.

Here then should each man read, and gazing find

Both how to live and govern, and beware

Of godlessness; and seeing God all-where,

Be bold to grasp the universal mind.

But we tied down to books and temples dead,

Copied with countless errors from life, –

These nobler than that school sublime we call.

O may our senseless souls at length be led

To truth by pain, grief, anguish, trouble, strife,

Turn we to read the one original.”


The first two basic texts of Giordano Bruno about the art of memory are “De umbris idearum” and “Cantus Circaeus”. Those two texts are explicitly magic in nature. Here, Giordano Bruno states the nature of his Work, in which the fundamentals are the classic traditional and Egyptian hermetism, and the ceremonial and ritual aspects of Cornelius Agrippa’s Work.

The “Shadows” to which Bruno refers, are the objects of the subtle world, the manifestation which is possible to perceive through the senses and the intellect. Giordano stated that, since our nature (mind, emotion, physical senses) is not so developed as to perceive and inhabit the same field of truth, what we can ordinarily grasp and recognize is not the essence of things (namely, the real world), but rather, “shadows”.

Indeed, the shadow of an object contains inside, something of the object itself, mainly, some aspects of its form, but is not complete, as it’s not the original object.

Nevertheless, the shadows are what a human can perceive, thus it is only through a vision which Bruno calls “shadowy”, that it is possible to progressively reach the perception of the world as it is – its own essence, the “face of God”.

The shadow is the “hiding place of the truth” and “although (the shadow) is not the truth itself, it derives from the truth, so it leads to the truth”. So, how can this be realized? How can a shadowy vision reveal the real nature of things?

Imagine an object that is exposed to light sources from various angles: it will create different shadows. Thus, if we observe the various shadows that are projected from the object itself at different angles, we’ll be able to know, or better said, to have a more objective idea, of the object to which those shadows are linked.

In synthesis, and reduced to maximum simplicity, this is the guideline of the magical mnemonics. There are infinite subtle objects that represent a likewise amount of shadows belonging to real objects (or archetypes). The act of recognizing the linked shadows (linked, since they are a reflection of the same object), allow the recognition of the different aspects of the object itself and, at the same time, “to introject” it in the mind.

Through the understanding of the archetype (this is accomplished by “bringing the 33archetype inside”), and through the realization of the associative chains, the Magus becomes able to contain in himself, a great amount of objects and concepts, each of which is linked with the others in a coherent sequence.

It’s as if the archetypes represents a sort of “main index” of the contents of the world. Each noun in this “index” originates in turn, “sub-indexes” until the number of created objects is apparently infinite.

Through the guidance of symbols (schemes, allegorical images, figures), the Magus gradually composes increasingly more comprehensive categories until it arrives “from the plurality of the things, to the unity that they suggest”.

It’s evident that every new concept, every new data perceived, will be organized by similarity and analogy within a precise chain of correspondences. In such a way, the Magus will be able to find it at any moment. The mind of the magus becomes a sort of organized archive, where every document can be found easily through a criteria of a rational systematic.

Since, according to the principle of mirroring, the mind of the Magus becomes a mirror of the universe. Through the magic of memory, the Magus himself, becomes able to contain within, both the objects of manifestation and the laws that link them together and the archetypes that are the primary origin of all these objects and laws.

In such a way, such as is said in the Corpus Hermeticum, the Magus “becomes similar to God in order to understand God… because the similar is understandable only to the similar”.


This topic will continue in the next post, The Art of memory 3: Giordano Bruno and the Symbolic Figures

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The Art of memory 1: The Reflection of the Divine

I would like to begin with a series of posts about the “art of memory”, often referred to as Ars Memoriae, Ars Memorativa and Mnemotechnics. I personally believe it to be a Western form of concentration on an object. Through time, specifically during the Renaissance, this method was developed to such a degree that it became a magical operative art. Before we continue, I would like to point out that I don’t intend “Magic” as a set of spells which is the lowest kind of “magic”, but as a meticulous “work” which is aimed toward the inner development of a human being. Such “work” (one of which is the alchemical Magnum Opus) existed in Western societies, and was very similar to the Eastern esoteric inner work and, in my opinion, had begun to extinguish after the Renaissance period.

memorHistorically, we can find the first codified system for the development of memory in the classical rhetoric. Cicero and Marcus Fabius Quintilianus used such a system that consisted in imagining a building, inside of which the various parts of speech were visualized as objects and placed in different rooms. In such a way, during his performance, the orator was able to recall the sequence of concepts by travelling through the various rooms of the mental building.

Obviously, this was a simple mnemonic technique which was aimed toward rhetorical functionality. Through the progressive development of hermetism and Renaissance neoplatonism, such a method was developed and enriched in such a way that it became a real magical discipline.

In his work “De vita coelitus comparanda”, Marsilio Ficino suggested to “build models of the world” (substantially geometrical forms like the Eastern mandalas), in which forms and colors were the representations of planets and forces which acts through them. In the opinion of Marsilio Ficino, the goal of such forms was not decorative, but had to become “real tools for meditation”. In practice, the various principles represented in such “models of the world” had to be “brought inside” the essence of the practitioner through the means of contemplation and meditation.

This was what was suggested in the “De vita coelitus comparanda”:

“…place such a colored figure on the dome ceiling, in the room where you live and sleep. So (through the constant contemplation of the figure), instead of the sight of the individual things in nature, you’ll be able to perceive the figure of the universe and its colors.”

memoSuch a crucial step is visible in the symbolic content of many masterpieces of the Renaissance pictorial art. It also introduced the foundations of the “art of memory” such as it was studied and practiced by the great esoteric masters and magicians of the 16th century, from Robert Fludd, Tommaso Campanella to Giordano Bruno (a character we’ll speak of more in the next series of this post devoted to the “art of memory”).

The basic assumption of such magic art can be summarized in the concept that the active thinking on an object means in some way “to bring it inside” the practitioner, and the symbolism of the object becomes part of the “meditator”. Mainly, the principles represented by the object become present in our inner world, and become as real in the field of thought, as it is real as an object in the material field.

This possibility “to bring inside” becomes the possibility to “keep inside” (and awake) the “Divine”, the principles of this Universe, and its forms and principles of manifestation, namely, the “laws”.

The term “to reflect” (to ponder) should illustrate this concept. Indeed, this word has a dual connotation: “to mirror” or “to reflect”, and “to ponder”, “to elaborate in mind”. This is one of the main points in the Western (but also Eastern) magic and mysticism, from the visualization to the hesychastic prayer.

memFor the Renaissance Magus, every object of the world is one of the expressions of an archetype. The object is connected with the archetype symbolically (or, if you prefer, we can use a more modern term, namely “analogically”). So, the act of linking objects in coherent sequences, as we’ll see in further posts, is the basis for the art of memory. It fulfills two functions: the first is purely technical, since it makes it possible to recall a memory through a chain of associations; the second function is higher, of a magical-esoteric character, and consists in “reflecting” the archetype through its various forms of manifestation.

Indeed, the archetypes are unattainable in their pure form, by the ordinary mind. However, it’s possible to reascend to them through associative chains and correspondences. This represents for the magus, the “language” through which “God” expresses itself and, at the same time, becomes understandable to the human mind. In such a way, the magician, through such correspondences, can “harmonize” himself with the divine. This is the meaning of the symbols in esoteric practices.


This topic will continue in the next post, The Art of memory 2: Giordano Bruno and the “Shadows”

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Diary of a pupil: Know Thyself

Possibly, the sentence “know thyself” is one of the most known sensational quotes: perhaps because it’s engraved on the entrance to the Temple of Apollo at Delphi, or because many great characters throughout history restated this concept several times, associating it to eminent visions.

Indeed, many individuals throughout history had stated that knowing ourselves is essential: Thales, Socrates, Plotinus, and Saint Augustine had stated it. They compared this statement to the Western philosophical speculation with many ancient knowings belonging to Eastern traditions, achieving the higher pinnacles of a knowing which influenced thought systems and cultures.

Today, things are much different. It seems that even the most prominent individuals in this contemporary society don’t consider self-knowledge as crucial. However, it seems also that such a statement has a particular allure, even if in most cases, it’s presented as a generic quote, too often considered profitable to entice the ego of potential buyers who claim to be interested in any kind of spiritual research.

It seems that in our culture, the sentence “know thyself” has assumed a rational form, in many cases intended as an observation of the forms of personality. And, this is an inquiry that could be a push towards change. However, in many cases, it’s only a reinforcement of one’s convictions – a completely wrong approach.

Observation is always a good practice and can always lead to improvement of oneself, but such observation must be completely released from an egoistic gratification.

But, are we sure that the ancients intended “knowing thyself” in such a way? That the process of rationalization can lead to really know who and what we are in essence?

When speaking about self-development, it’s not a trivial matter.

Speaking about essence, it comes mind, a section of the Kena Upanishad, as translated by Sri Aurobindo.

  1. By whom missioned falls the mind shot to its mark? By

whom yoked moves the first life-breath forward on its

paths? By whom impelled is this word that men speak?

What god set eye and ear to their workings?

  1. That which is hearing of our hearing, mind of our mind,

speech of our speech, that too is life of our life-breath and

sight of our sight. The wise are released beyond and they

pass from this world and become immortal.

  1. There sight travels not, nor speech, nor the mind. We know

It not nor can distinguish how one should teach of It: for It

is other than the known; It is there above the unknown. It

is so we have heard from men of old who declared That to

our understanding.

  1. That which is unexpressed by the word, that by which

the word is expressed, know That to be the Brahman and not

this which men follow after here.

  1. That which thinks not by the mind, that by which the mind

is thought, know That to be the Brahman and not this which

men follow after here.

  1. That which sees not with the eye, that by which one sees

the eye’s seeings, know That to be the Brahman and not this

which men follow after here.

  1. That which hears not with the ear, that by which the ear’s

hearing is heard, know That to be the Brahman and not this

which men follow after here.

  1. That which breathes not with the breath, that by which the

life-breath is led forward in its paths, know That to be the

Brahman and not this which men follow after here.

I quoted these verses because in these words, lies the main problem of knowledge: how is it possible to know the subject that knows?

I’ll try to explain better. Our cognitive process operates in a particular way: mainly, that in order to “know” something, we need a subject which observes, and the object which is observed.

So, if I see a tree (the object), I can observe it, analyze it, define it; and, at the same time, exists an “I” that is able to recognize, distinguish and define the tree.

Yes, this is a simplification, but necessary in order to give the idea of what I mean.

In such a way, everything can be recognized and understood, at a certain level, through the use of ideas, concepts and logical criteria.

However, there’s something that thwarts the possibility to be known and understood in such a way – the subject that observes. Indeed, how can the entity which lies between the observed and the observer, be observed?

Yes, I am speaking about the mind. In order to understand it, it must be reduced as an object, and we need to find another mean, another “subject” which will be able to understand this entity. In such a way, the subject-mind becomes the object which is observed. Otherwise, it will remain unknown.

I remember one of the first things that my mentor said to me more than twenty years ago: “You don’t think. You don’t know how to think”.

This statement was very offensive to me, and made me always react with useless protests and justifications.

“What do you mean with this? Do you think that I am so stupid and incapable?”

 “You don’t think because you can’t have the freedom of thought. Your ideas are conditioned by everything that surrounds you: the place and the time where you live, the culture that represents this place and time… “

I knew that he was an individual who used to provoke people, but maybe this time he had to tell me something useful in order for me to understand. Or at least, to begin to understand.

“You would like to know who you really are through your mind as it is now. But this is impossible, definitely impossible. Even if you are so young, your mind is filled by a mire of social and religious morality, rationalism and concepts taken here and there during these years of your existence.

Your emotions are reactive, your pride and presumption define you, and with this premise, to know who you are is impossible. You need to realize the possibility of a thought that originates from a completely different source – an uncontaminated source. Before beginning to know your true nature, you must convert your way of thinking.

Above all, you have to erase the Andrea you think to be, and begin to learn again to walk, to keep the back straight, to sit, to eat; you need to wake up in the morning and embrace the first sunshine, aware of the constant miracle of life.

You must make your gestures and your life a symbol, so that you can always remember yourself. You have to fight the preconcepts and fears that limit you. You must fight the ignorance, the sleep of consciousness and your comfort zones; and you have to study to the point of exhaustion, the thought of every ancient culture, and realize the world and life itself.

If you can’t do this, you don’t have anything to seek from me.”

He stopped for a moment, looking straight into my eyes, such as he was evaluating the damage made to my offended ego. Then, with a smile that released my every concern and anxiety, he continued.

“If you wish to enter the path of inner development, you must become such as those individuals who, thousands of years ago, before every religion or ready- made spiritual thought, realized to be imperfect, and grasping the possibility of becoming perfect, they asked themselves how to fill this distance.

Many of those individuals embraced a path of purification in order to “ascend” towards such perfection that they imagined to be somewhere in higher dimensions or in the sky. It was a path of purification from ignorance, identification, and lack of awareness, until becoming “similar” to God.

But, near to this vision, another one developed. And, this different vision sought the Divine in everything belonging to this world and beyond. Instead of the “ascent” towards perfection, they developed the wondering that if God is present in everything, then God was present in every human being. Thus, they realized that they had to become aware of this and awaken.

Those who accepted this first school of thought, embraced the renouncement and the asceticism, while others immersed themselves in life, with the knowing that if God is in everything, nothing can be considered less divine”

He became quiet allowing those words to impregnate my mind. Then, with a slow gesture, he tasted a sip of coffee. In those gestures, in his silence, in those sips, I saw that he was completely present. He was at the same time, in the conversation we had and in that coffee he was drinking, as if savoring the pleasure of that flavour.

He put down the cup of coffee in a way that seemed to me a wish to establish an order on the table and, at the same time, in my mind. He was looking at me such as his gaze was embracing also the entire environment, making me aware that I was also part of this environment or, if you wish, part of the whole. It was a strange feeling that shifted my perception for some moments in a way that was difficult to explain.

Then, he continued.

“In some way you are lucky, because you are very young, and your mind is not yet crystallized; however it’s already filled by concepts and beliefs. If you really seek your true nature, you can’t accomplish this task through the mind that you have formed in those 17 years of your existence. The part of you that is convinced to have a thought is only personality – a mask, conditioned by the stimuli you experienced, from the morality and prejudices that you confuse with reality. What you see isn’t the real world, but an interpretation of the same, mediated by a subjective vision.

This is why you don’t ‘think’, because your mind remains identified with what you consider yourself to be, and what you consider to be true.

So, before beginning to experience the path of self-development, you must devote yourself to study. And I don’t intend theoretical speculations you find in books, non- books, however ‘spiritual’, which doesn’t give you anything but words that fill your beliefs. On the contrary, you’ll have to convert every gesture and every attitude, comparing it with the imposing corpus of knowing that survived through millennia on this planet. Such knowing opened the way towards Truth more than what every technology we have today at disposal, could do.

Indeed, we control more and more matter, but we are more than ever ignorant regarding our true nature. In such a way, we are increasingly more identified with appearances, and we lose every contact with the essence. And, essence is, in the end, the only real thing which we can count on.”

Essence was just what had became my obsession from the first time I heard of this term. The Self, the intimate part of us, the only real part of us and, at the same time so impalpable, submerged by a mind that thinks to know in such a way, that it is impossible “to get in touch” with it.

And, everytime I thought to have understood this principle, my mentor immediately put me in the face of the fact that this was another identification, a trick of my mind, a colored way for the ego to find affirmation.

I had understood that the True Self can’t be realized through ordinary means, and that it should be observed from an external point of view. But who or what could observe it?

In such a way, the sentence “know thyself” seemed to me to be an absurd pretence, indeed, a paradox. And every effort to receive from my mentor, a glimpse of an answer, was useless. Indeed, he often seemed to minimize and take time when I was questioning him about such a topic.

So, without an answer, I was wondering: how is it possible to know the Self?

The first answer came only a few years later. In that period, I was in contact with my mentor almost every day. One day, he had begun to show me some reproductions of Baroque paintings. One of these was Caravaggio’s “Narcissus”. The perfection of the forms of this master had some strange power to harmonize the usual tumult I was feeling in mind and heart.

“Narcissus” by Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio

He waited awhile in silence, almost knowing the effect that that painting had on me.

Then, perhaps noticing that it was the right moment, he began to speak.

“You are impressed by the forms. But what gives form… to the forms?”

“The contrast between light and shadow”, I answered.

He nodded with a subtle smile.

“The light. Yes, it’s the light the reveals the objects, the world, things. If you illuminate a room, all that is inside becomes visible, so you can recognize all that is in that room. You can know what’s in that room because of the light you turned on. And, even the source of that light, the light bulb, becomes visible in virtue of that light. All that is in the room is lightened and becomes known. But what leads us to knowing the light itself? What ‘illuminates’ that light?”

I remained looking at the reproduction of that painting. Narcissus who stares at the reflection of his face in the water, a marvelous representation of the human illusory perception of themselves and reality. I was astonished. Maybe, for the first time, I was really able to state to have understood something, even if a glimpse of the whole story. At least, now I had somewhere from which to begin to understand.

And, this meant only one thing, and in that moment I was aware of it: this was a fundamental piece of the puzzle to accomplish the aim of the statement of the wise- “know thyself”.

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Pondering: What about superficiality? Attitude and personal example.

indexIt is no longer needed to write a post about the fact that, in the last few years, superficiality is climbing, diffused in the social tissue; superficial contents, often driven by ignorance, circulating with increasing frequency everywhere: yes, in the social network, but above all, also in human relationships.

People who consider truthful, anything said by anyone, without verifying the sources, without any kind of attention, and without a minimum of thought, is dramatically increasing.

The cause, and beneficiary of this situation are first of all, the media which seems to make the effort not only to keep things as they are, but to make them increasingly worse.

And not to forget the so called “VIPs” of every field who, unfortunately, become a cognitive and behavioral model for the masses. Such individuals not only don’t care about the responsibility which their role involves, but more than often, support values of a very low level, including inferior products, only because “this is a product which sells”.

We live in a world increasingly more inhabited by charlatans, of people who promote absurdities presented as scientific truths, often abusing terminologies with the tendency just to sell products empty of any significance, efficiency or authentic cultural origins. To complete the overview of the situation (even if it could continue on and on, perpetually), what about those who know perfectly what they do, and use those mechanisms to divulge dangerous and/or harmful contents, knowing well the results of what they’re spreading?

We could make the examples of concepts we could call “dark” that are sold as means for a personal evolution. Or, the example of people who become propagators of a suffocating morality, or a system of limiting thoughts, or such.

It’s my opinion that anyone with a little awareness who witnesses these behaviors, no longer has “the right to remain silent”. Indeed, they have the sacrosanct right to intervene directly against this.

The world we live in, is a result of superficiality, and superficiality is something which should be opposed, first of all through a rebuttal that it doesn’t lead anywhere. And this is of value for all: from laws to attitudes, from the words in a newspaper, to the words of a neighbor. Then, try to deepen our thought and our culture, and express it through the means which this age offers at our disposal.

We don’t suggest to become polemic, maybe crystallizing into never-ending discussions or arguments. This is a useless waste of time, in any case. We are speaking about expressing dissent each time we notice an inequity. It doesn’t require very much: sometimes, it’s enough to silently raise an eyebrow in front of a colleague or friend with a stupid attitude. Sometimes it’s enough to speak and express our thoughts, without caring if we gain or not, the approval of the listener.

We are speaking about not perpetually promulgating alarmist or detrimental contents which could limit someone’s freedom. If something doesn’t convince us because of reasonable doubts, just don’t share it, and let’s not give the possibility that such material could be spread.

Ok, obviously there’s not only what we could “not” do. There is also what we can and should do. Actively. For example, sharing our own material, or subjects which resonate with our experience, or something we have learned… there are never-ending examples.

Or, seen that in this moment we are on internet, sharing information which seems reasonable to us, which gives us a feeling of giving a further value, it doesn’t matter if it is practical advice or a thought or a consideration.

Let’s not burn the contents we feel are of value, like firewood. We find on Facebook or other social networks, something we like, something which incites in us, a moment of pondering. Often we dismiss it with a “like” and forget it. Why not share it?

For every word we don’t say, even when we feel that we wish to say it or express it, we allow a part of our freedom to die.

It’s just a personal pondering… which maybe, could make someone else ponder.



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“A common aim is stronger than blood.”


This quote of Gurdjieff is a nice title to begin this post. Indeed, to accomplish an aim, one must be tenacious. A common aim is shared by several people who focus their efforts to accomplish it, and in this instance, it is really strong. However, it’s been years since Gurdjieff stated these marvelous words. It seems that in the last decades, most people have lost the concept of “common”, and prefer to do things by themselves.

The aim of this post is not to criticize such isolation which seems to divide humans, instead of unifying them.

What I would like to share, is the principle in this quote which evokes in me, the principle of Perseverance.

Indeed, being capable to persevere in our own or shared decisions, especially in those decisions which could make a difference in our life, is not a small thing.

How often does it happen when we awaken one morning and decide that, from that moment on we have to change something? Perhaps we don’t feel well physically or emotionally, or because we are not satisfied with ourselves, or something in our environment. In inadequate words, because we feel that “there is something wrong”.

Therefore, we decide to change our diet, our way of communicating with others, of loving others, our behavior. We change our daily routines and activities, we introduce new things and shed old habits.

That bright morning is fed by a Force that flows inside us. Do you remember the famous Star Wars quote “May the Force be with you”? In such a morning, we feel the reality of this quote: we know what we wish and from where to begin the change.

Then, during the next days or even hours, such a Force begins to diminish, as a light which gradually transforms into a faint flicker until it extinguishes, leaving us in the dark. And, that’s the end of our shift.

It’s important to understand how this process occurs, but we usually can’t perform such an observation, because deep within us, we consider ourselves incapable, obtuse, and misguided.

Let’s put aside our self-pity. Let us recover a bit of self-confidence, and try to discover the reason why we have failed in our intention.

As probably many know, our actions are subjected to some laws that, if we are not aware of them, we will obviously suffer their influence.

When we decide to bring about a change in our life, we are exiting from the deep-rooted mechanics from which we wish to emancipate, and transform them into something else. Translated into easily understood words: the inner and outer habits which are deeply-rooted within us which we wish to change. And, for making a shift, we need much energy, mainly, a huge Motivation.

After a while, the Power, the motivation of the bright morning seems to extinguish, and the old habits return – and when they return, sometimes it seems that they are stronger than before.

We have to remember to again find the motivation, the same feeling of that bright morning when it had been explicitly stated.

It’s true that to restore that motivation requires a will and a conscious self-governing. It’s also true that such a condition can be reached through a serious path of inner research.

However, I would like to go deeper, and transform the words that I wrote which you have probably read and heard dozens of times, by offering a possibility by outlining what usually is practically ignored: the Goal. Many know about the Laws of Three and Seven, the “we can’t do” and the “we are subjected to external influences”. Nice information that, by themselves don’t help very much, because they don’t give a bright perspective, however true it could be. What most ignore, is the “how” to state a concrete goal which could keep the motivation alive. I’ll be sincere and say that this is a topic which would require more than a book. Also, a goal is not only a statement, but it’s also a concrete tactic on how to change our actual state (what we wish to change) to the desired state (the goal).

I’ll just mention how to state a constructive and concrete goal. Better than nothing, isn’t it?

So, in order to state a goal, it must be concrete (“I wish to feel better” is not a concrete statement and “I wish to be calmer” is concrete); achievable (stating that I wish to become the president of the USA is a little bit out of my range, so not achievable); stated in the positive (not “I don’t wish to be nervous”, but “I wish to be calmer”); measurable (what concrete result do I wish to achieve and how will I know what event will have to happen so that I may understand if I have achieved it?); “ecologic” (does the aim comply with my values and ethics?).

Also, don’t think about your limits. Don’t say, “I don’t know if I’ll succeed”. Rather, think as though you have already achieved that goal.

I don’t like very much the “positive thinking” movement, seen that such an attitude is a double-edged sword – it’s better to be a bit more optimistic than pessimistic. Do you feel to be a shy or insecure person? Act as though you are already secure and self-confident. This means to act.

Of course, this is only an outline about how to make a goal achievable. There are many things to say about this. A whole education, as said above, would require at least a book or some seminars to be explained… and practice to be understood and realized.

However, in my opinion it’s far better than repeating like a parrot that “we can’t do”.

What’s more important is to act.

With Love,


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Gurdjieff’s “Human Factory”#4: Conclusion

What had been briefly revealed in this series of posts is what we can define as our “inner alchemy”, mainly, what had been symbolically described as the transmutation of raw metals into precious metal. But this process of alchemy is inside of us, not outside.

Now, making some observation, first of all, we must understand that the three octaves described in the previous posts have different potentials.

For example, the force of the octave-food will give some results or effects that can be measured; it’s a mechanical process. If the organism of the ordinary human being doesn’t work on itself and doesn’t try to change its state of consciousness, it will function according to this mechanical pattern.

The octave-air represents a small amount of hydrogens (although the matter taken from this nourishment plays an important role); the octave-impressions is huge and powerful, and can play a key role in relation with what we call “remembering ourselves”, to the states of consciousness, emotions, etc…

The hero of myth is not a hero because he is born as so, or because he decides to become a hero, but simply because the incidental situation in which he finds himself pushes him to perform a heroic action (just remember the example of the mother who saves her child).

Above all theories and mere philosophies, the key factor lies in how we perceive the impressions. If we perceive them in negative terms, the result will be a loss of energy (and possibilities); perceived in positive terms (for example, but just as example, “if I can’t do it for myself, I’ll do it for someone else”), it will become a source of strength, an additional shock which will allow us to refine our energy and to overcome obstacles that seem apparently insuperable.

When a seeker finds himself in the face of a problem, instead of falling into self-pity or desistence, he asks himself: “if I found a new obstacle, this means that I am facing something I never knew before; now, through facing it, I have an opportunity to strengthen myself.”

A seeker transforms anger, rage, frustration, depression, and self-pity into “food to grow”, refined energy which will lead him beyond what he considered his limits.

As Sri Aurobindo had said, “when I am in trouble, I am happy, because the divine gives me a possibility to grow.”




So, to recap: the relation between the three octaves is not the same: they have more or fewer substances, so it’s important to learn to use and increase those which are useful for the work on self. An example is the octave-air that can be enhanced through the science of breath (the techniques of pranayama); the octave-impressions can be enhanced through the exercise of observation.

The conscious shocks related to the diagram-food must be our action, and as “our action”, I mean intentional and aimed action. It’s necessary to know the exact moment when to provoke those shocks and, of course, to remember to provoke them. Such shocks must be provoked with accuracy, because only the right quality of shock will help in those particular octaves.

The first conscious shock is to remember ourselves, observe what is happening (self- observation), non- identification, etc. All those actions require an intentional effort.

The second conscious shock is exactly what we cannot do alone, or it’s very difficult to perform by ourselves (at least in the beginning), mainly, the transformation of negative emotions into positive. This second shock is possible only after a long work on remembering ourselves, when we’ll be able to remain lucid and present for longer times, and when the higher emotional center will begin to be active.

In Gurdjieff’s terms, the MI 12, combined with a special effort, will produce a positive emotion (and we’ve already spoken about this).



However, what can be said is that the student can produce a long-lasting positive emotion, a sort of “virus”, able to “contaminate” the negative emotions through the support of a mentor, a guide.

This is what had been mentioned several times on this blog, and what in Zen is called Ishin-Den-Shin (from heart to heart), namely, the openness of the pupil towards the guide who can allow him to overcome in a short time, every difficulty related to the negative emotions.

It’s a glimpse, a magnetization which can suddenly transform the negative emotions of the student into positive emotions, and allows him to travel the path in an unexpected velocity (with the assumption the guide is genuine and not a self-proclaimed guru). If such a glimpse doesn’t happen, the student will experience more difficulties, everything will cost a huge effort; indeed, a guide is an accelerator of transformation, a mean able to refine and push the energies through continuous shocks.

But beware; I am not speaking here about abnegation, a passive surrendering to a guru or another; it’s a process of linking a heart (of the guide) with a mind (of the pupil), able to understand and put into practice what is understood and felt: in other words – a passion.



Now, a few more words about impressions. First of all, we have to remember that we can’t enhance the food, because it’s only what we have at our disposal; we can’t change the air, because it’s the only type of air that we can breathe, but we can enhance the impressions, and this is the only possibility we have at our disposal on a work on self.

How can we perform such an enhancement? Simply through trying to wake up, namely, remembering our purpose (such as in the example of Istanbul).

An impression is the minor unity of thought, emotion, and feeling. To acquire an impression means that a certain energy is absorbed into ourselves with this impression.

All the energy we receive can be defined as “food”. The food we eat is “raw matter”, the air is more subtle, and the impressions are the subtlest food we have at disposal – the most powerful active principle.


A human being can’t live a moment without impressions; impressions are acquired even when he is totally unconscious.

However, although many impressions reach us in states of unawareness or sleep of consciousness, such impressions are subjective; namely, billions of impressions reach our senses, but we select what attracts us more or, to see it in an honest way, what scares us least, and we reject all which doesn’t attract us. Some impressions attract us more, others less, and all this is material for our work of observation.

Some impressions go to the intellectual center, others to the emotional, the instinctive and the motor centers.

Every center has its own apparatus to receive impressions, but what usually happens is a mess: for example, it’s not a rarity that the intellectual center tries to acquire impressions intended for another center, and the same thing happens with the other centers. But, every center is designed to acquire separate impressions. For example, a smell can’t be acquired by the intellectual center because it’s something that belongs to the instinctive field.


Impressions are relatively easy to examine and evaluate through the processes of observation, comparison, and even through conversations with other persons. We can understand what kind of impressions belong to higher and which to the lower levels.

If we become able to make a distinction between impressions, we become able to decide what to accept and what to reject. This can happen if we remain awake; if we “sleep”, we can’t do it. But when we are present, we can isolate ourselves from unnecessary impressions; maybe not from the beginning, because even this requires a training.


“One who contemplates simultaneously on the void of the back and the void of the root becomes completely free of all thought constructs by that energy which is independent of the body.

By steady contemplation on the void of the back, the void of the root and the void of the heart simultaneously, there arises the state of nirvikalpa, which is free from thought constructs.

O gazelle-eyed one, concentrate upon all the constituents of the body pervaded by space, so that the thought becomes steady.

One should contemplate on the skin of the body as a mere wall or partition with nothing inside it. By meditating thus, he becomes like the void, which cannot be meditated upon.

When the mind is dissolved in dwadashanta by steady awareness and steady practice, the true nature or essence of the goal manifests everywhere in one’s body.”

Vigyan Bhairav Tantra (44-49)


We can’t completely stop impressions, but we can keep away impressions that are not useful for us, and attract impressions that are harmonious and balanced. It must be clear that if we wish to develop, we must stop nourishing ourselves with deleterious emotions. This is of paramount importance.

There are many destructive impressions that can literally destroy the life of an individual if he accepts them for a long enough time, or if he has developed the habit of seeking such impressions.

The most common example is the morosity provoked from the crime news, or simply continuing to have a dull, harmful lifestyle after one has realized that it is so. Or spend time and again in sick environments (sick in terms of mood, “vibration”), attend the football match to unleash suppressed aggression, etc…

Those subject to such kinds of dynamics constantly increase harmful impressions: scandals, passion for gossip, judgment, seeing something wrong in everything – all which are poisoning impressions for our system. This must be understood and realized.

We don’t have to think so much to choose “right impressions” as to make a distance from the harmful impressions. Only through such a distancing can we achieve a certain control. If we would try to choose “right” impressions, the only thing we would do would be to cheat ourselves. We can learn to recognise the deleterious impressions, then control them by simply “isolating” ourselves from them. Such an isolation doesn’t mean so much to take a physical distance, to isolate ourselves physically, but to perform an “inner detachment”, namely to not accept the influences produced from such impressions.

In order to control such a process, we must wake up and practice, and train ourselves to do it so, because if we are already accustomed to “eat” impressions that are harmful for us (and this situation in such a society is not a rarity), the whole process of recognising them and making the necessary distances, will take a bit of practice. An “I” will know that it’s necessary to take the distances, but maybe another 20 “I’s” will madly love such impressions.

At the cost of becoming boring through constantly repeating the same thing, I’ll say once more that impressions enter constantly, every second of our life, into our system. Some of those impressions change mechanically, but the major part of them remain unchanged; it can be changed by our attempt to become more aware, more present.

While approaching the end of this post, a thought comes to my mind: perhaps, this could be an interesting topic on which to begin an online conversation – an interactive conversation to elucidate some concepts which may seem unclear in written format.




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Gurdjieff’s “Human Factory”#3: The “The Second Conscious Shock”

And, finally, we come to the third phase of the process which shows what happens when a conscious shock is given in the right way and right time.

In the path of the octave-impressions, the first interval happens in the MI 12. At the same degree, the interval SI 12 in the octave-food is also present. And this is a great glitch.

The second conscious shock comes into charge when the MI 12 (octave-impressions) and the SI 12 (octave-food) stop in their development and can’t continue by themselves.

Even if the organism contains hydrogens that could help to overcome such a deadlock, they are too far in the octave and can’t reach the place where they should provoke the shock; thus, another effort is needed.


If we know what kind of solicitation to produce, then we’ll be able to provoke the second conscious shock. Once the arrest is overcome, MI 12 will develop in FA 6 and SI 12 in DO 6, reaching the LA 6 already produced in the octave-air. So, we’ll produce higher matter which contains more energy.

So, let’s apply this process on the example of the previous post: the trip from Rovinj to Istanbul. The travel is almost ended, and they are at the doors of Istanbul.

Believe it or not, even here at this point, there happen several difficulties: the traffic is at a standstill, it’s raining and when they ask about which road to take, they receive discordant information.

Everyone is really sick and tired, nervous, and the friends bicker because everyone has their own opinion about what to do: seen that it’s almost impossible to enter the city, someone would like to get back home, one other chooses another destination, and someone else wishes simply to remain where they are. Even the small weaknesses which are usually tolerated because of the friendship, becomes unbearable. Now, friendship is no longer enough, namely, a shock inside the system (the group of friends) is not enough: a stimulus is necessary from the external.

Fortunately, a miracle happens: someone remembers that other friends who didn’t have the possibility to undertake the trip, had remained at home. They also spent much time in helping the friends to organize this trip and lent the car: in exchange, as a sign of gratitude, they asked for some souvenirs from Istanbul. These friends would be very disappointed if this trip failed, at least this is what was deeply perceived between the travelers.

So, they come to an agreement: “A failure mustn’t happen: we wish to arrive at Istanbul. We’ll do it for our friends, who did so much for this trip!

For the first time they use the verb “I wish“: they made this decision because they wanted to be remembered by the friends who remained home, to have their consideration, etc…

Without the thought of being able to tell one day, the story of this travel, they wouldn’t have had enough strength to perform this last effort which overcomes every exhaustion, demotivation and accident: for the first time, what is performed is no longer an effort such as for the first shock, but a super effort.

Ok, at this degree of such a trivial example, we can find the second conscious shock – the reason which allows the impossible to become possible. It’s the same source of energy that makes a mother find the strength to lift up a car to save her child, or what allows a mariner during a storm to undertake an impossible maneuver to save his life and, often the life of others in the same boat. Or the example of the Greek messenger Pheidippides, running to Athens with news of the victory after the battle of Marathon to show to others, his valor.

This is what gives the possibility to overcome the second block, or “interval” of the octave- food, and the first of the octave-impressions.

It’s a shock that comes from the outside – something external which produces a strong positive emotional charge able to pulverize any negative emotion which keep us at a standstill.

Such an effort must begin from MI 12, so we have to understand what MI 12 represents psychologically for us. We can define the charge of this effort as the strong emotions we can ordinarily experience.

Every time our emotions achieve a certain degree of intensity, they are filled by MI 12. The problem is that, in our ordinary state, the positive emotions remain on a value of hydrogen 24, while the negative emotions achieve values that can be compared to MI 12. This doesn’t mean that negative emotions are really MI 12, but that they are based on it and they need it in order to be produced.

Between the repertoire of negative emotions lies also the “appearance” – a category which is so deep-rooted in our society that it passes practically unnoticed. This attitude produces a discrepancy between the objective reality experienced by the individual and what he tells himself about what he experienced.

The world of appearances. To keep this mask alive is an effort which requires a remarkable effort, unfortunately not constructive in terms of self- development.

It’s not only the manner of people who attend gyms or beauty centers, dress uncomfortably with trendy clothes, or subject themselves to every kind of surgery to change their physical image. Even in the field of “spirituality” we can witness every kind of mask: the peaceful meditator who shares love but goes crazy if someone doesn’t reciprocate, the Yoga practitioners who dress as an Indian even if they are born in Paris, London or New York, the tantric with exotic initiation names, and so on. We could really make neverending examples.

What’s important to understand is that even such kind of very expensive emotion is driven by the necessity of being considered by others. However, there’s a difference: this second case doesn’t intend “I am ‘that’ and this is what I wish to represent in my life”, but rather, “Since I wish to make-believe that I am what I am not, I’ll do all that is possible to realize this.”

The “work” on MI 12 is the example of the friends who decide to go to Istanbul, and at the end they state, “We wish to go to Istanbul”: in such a state, an individual reaches states of euphoria, a state which can almost be described as “omnipotence” (but don’t take this word in its negative meaning), which will allow him to overcome every obstacle in order to reach the aim.

It’s what happens to an adolescent when he cultivates a passion, or to the runner who has already reached the goal before the start. What happens is that we put ourselves in a sort of “void”, an empty space inside of us in which there are no obstacles, in a vibratory state that is so high as to contain even the aim.

In Zen terms, “the shooter becomes the target”.

The result of such a condition is what is called, “the work on negative emotions”, namely the transmutation of a negative emotion into a positive one which is able to overcome everything, negative emotions included.



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Gurdjieff’s “Human Factory”#2: The First Conscious Shock”

Let us take a look at the “human machine” such as a three-storied factory – head, chest, and lower part of the body. The food enters from the “top floor” (head) and passes to the lower floors as Hydrogen 768 (the DO of the food octave).

Such food interacts in the body, according to the Law of Three, with other elements and becomes hydrogen 384, namely the RE key, and, successively, through further interactions, is transformed into hydrogen 192.

What is of interest here, is to observe that the mechanical, natural process of the food transformation comes to a stalemate, just at the point that corresponds with the key MI. Indeed, it’s just here that, in the musical scale there’s an interval between the MI and FA; it’s a critical point in which the food-octave can’t develop further by itself. Such a point can be overcome only with an additional help, an energy, an event that we’ll define as shock.

Here enters, to take charge, the second food, namely the air that, as hydrogen 192 (its note at this degree is DO) provokes a shock to the MI 192 in the octave-food, allowing it to become FA 96.

We’ll avoid specific passages because they would give an overly complicated explanation; so we’ll say that this process in the food-octave can continue until FA 12, and here it stops.

There would be needed another shock produced from the third food – the impressions, but these that enter the human system as DO 48 can’t develop further. Why? Because, when they should enter in, there is no carbon – the active force, which could allow the process of transformation to continue.

The natural process of transformation doesn’t supply the necessary quantity of carbon to produce an adequate effort. So, without such transformation, the octave-food stops at SI 12.

Mainly, nature brings human development until a specific level. After this level, a human must develop by himself, intentionally. So to say, nature gives the possibility to a human to develop, but this process doesn’t happen in a mechanical way, by itself. Nature gives mechanical transformations so that a human being could survive. In order to develop, what is needed is an intentional effort.

To summarize: what has been said about the food diagram, represents the first part of the process of transmutation which shows how the digestion (transformation of food) occurs in an ordinary man. In such an automatic part of the process, the octave-food begins from DO 768 to SI 12. During this process, three notes of the octave-air and one note of the octave- impressions, intervenes. The octave-air produces the mechanical shock which allows the system to overcome the first interval.

But, if we wish to develop further, we must increase the production of “higher materials”, and we need to know how to do it, not only theoretically, but in the concreteness of every action. We need much time to learn how to use such knowing and how to make the right efforts.


The first intentional Shock

We have examined the octave-food, specifically, the first part of the process of transformation. Now, let’s take a look at what happens in the second part, when the octave-air which has already entered the body, reaches the MI 48. But, it can proceed further.

Of course, even in this case, a shock is needed, but this one can’t, and it doesn’t happen in a natural way: indeed, it’s no longer a fact of natural survival, but of evolution in the real meaning of the term. Such evolution needs an individual conscious will. A conscious shock.




What performs this second, intentional step, are the impressions which, as we have seen, enter the human system as DO 48 and, in its further passages will be transformed into RE 24. So, the octave-air receive a shock from the octave-impressions, and MI 48 is transformed into FA 24, SOL 12 and, even produces a small amount of LA 6.

The air is saturated by higher hydrogens – what is commonly known as energy and, in the Eastern traditions, prana. In determined situations, such substance can be preserved in the organism during the process of breathing.

However, the amount of higher hydrogens we can obtain from the air is really insufficient. The work with the first conscious shock is needed just because of that: it gives the possibility to use the higher hydrogen obtained through the process of breathing.


Let’s make a very simple, practical example about the Law of Seven, which drives the whole process of transmutation.

Let’s suppose that some friends decide to travel to Istanbul by car. Once the journey begins, through the third part of the trip, a “block” occurs – the first difficulty, namely the first “interval”: near Belgrade (Serbia). One of the friends is hungry and wishes to take a break from the trip. The fuel is almost exhausted, and most of the friends are tired from the travel.

It’s an obstacle, maybe a little one; however, it could deviate from the intent to reach Istanbul.

At such a point, one of the friends says,”Don’t you remember what you promised me? I wanted to see Istanbul and you promised to bring me there!”

Such an event corresponds to the additional shock: because of the respect, the friendship, and the honor toward each other, the group of friends decide to continue the travel together. Something inside of them remembers that the decision taken in the beginning, was to go to Istanbul and not stop in Belgrade.

So, here’s how the first interval could manifest itself in a normal event (through fatigue, loss of intent, etc.), and what could be the first additional shock – friendship, the need to keep the word, the honor, gives the “subtlest” energy (a more refined hydrogen) that allows one to overcome the deadlock and continue the travel.

In the next post we’ll continue the story and see how the second shock happens.


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Gurdjieff’s “Human Factory” #1: The “Transformation” and the “Hydrogens”

The last post was a quick introduction to the topic on the increase of energy and its transmutation, as taught by Gurdjieff. However, before taking into consideration how to “increase the energy”, we should first study the whole system in terms of its useless expenditure of energy, since our psychophysical machine suffers several “declines” – namely, we waste energy.

If we don’t arrest such waste of energy in our system, most of the energy produced will feed only such “declines”.

Imagine a boat full of leaks – it would have difficulties to float; and, in order to make it float, instead of trying to empty it of water, it would be more efficient to repair the leaks. That’s an obvious thing.

In the human system, the “leaks” through which we lose our energy, are the negative emotions. We had already spoken about emotions and the dichotomy of the emotional center in previous posts. However, I would like to specify that we don’t speak here about “bad luck”, the objective event, but about the interpretation we give to the events and on the subjective interpretation we give to these occurrences.


As an example, we could imagine this situation:

A guy went to a bar, and the waitress serves him with a huge smile. Such a smile triggers a series of considerations which produces a sort of film about the event, an interpretation according to his subjective perception about what is happening. Perhaps he feels that he had an effect on the woman, that he was not half-bad and that probably tomorrow, he’ll make an attempt to approach this woman.

In reality, the waitress smiled only because she woke up with a positive mood, perhaps because her boyfriend surprised her with an engagement ring. She feels good and she doesn’t, in actuality, notice him.

However, he built an entire illusionary story about this event. The next day, he returns to the same bar with great expectations, but what he will find there, is the waitress with her boyfriend. His expectant hopes collapse.


This simple and ordinary event exposes the fact that an objective reality exists, but we aren’t able to perceive it. We live a subjective reality – an interpretation.

This interpretation is what makes us experience negative emotions such as self-pity, everyday fears, guilt, indecision, judgment, laziness, apathy, self-protection, greed, etc. regarding a situation and, of course, the subjective way with which we interpret the situation.

If we could be more sincere with ourselves, we would quietly admit that such mechanisms are the content of the great part of our day.

In order to perform a proficuous Work on ourselves, we must intervene on the negative emotions: first of all, we should learn to recognize them, then try to limit them and, finally, to transform them into positive emotions (and this will be a topic in further posts). What should not be done, is to repress such emotions because we cannot live without them.


After this necessary digression on the negative emotions, we can continue with learning how to increase the “nutritive value” of the foods, mainly, how to increase the quality of energy in our “human factory”.

It’s a complicated process in which intervenes, the kinds of food we mentioned in the previous post – food, air and impressions. In order to not transform this post into a biology treatise, we’ll say that every one of these three foods is elaborated by the body in a mechanical way to a certain degree. After this mechanical process, the intervention of a more “subtle” nourishment which could produce a shock, able to trigger the process of refining, is required to produce an eventual transmutation.

Once more, let’s clarify with an example:

Ordinarily, every process of refining needs a supply of energy. If the energy used for this process is produced from the material that has to be refined, it’s obvious that part of the energy gained will be spent as fuel in the process of elaboration. This is what occurs with the physical food where elaboration is self-nourished with the energy produced from the reaction itself.

So, when a piece of meat is transformed in the stomach, a good part of the energy produced is used in the process of digestion. This, of course, happens for all the physical foods, not only for meat. When the remaining substances (fat and proteins) reach the intestine, they can be transferred to the blood; however, they would be of little usefulness if they couldn’t be further transformed into a different form which could be used from the cells.

But now, the products which have been extracted from the piece of meat can’t use its own energy for this transformation: the residual energy isn’t sufficient to perform this.

So, the intervention of an external energy is required – a substance which could allow the cells to use the proteins of this food, instead of the proteins which are already in the organism.

At this point, the product of the second food, the oxygen, enters to take charge, producing a series of chemical reactions. Without the oxygen present in the blood, a further transformation of the proteins cannot occur, the cells would not accept the new proteins, and the whole process would end here.

So, at a certain point, the energy that comes from the physical food needs the energy that comes from the air to continue the process. Namely, in order to be used for further purposes, the first nourishment (the physical food) needs a sudden transformation – a shock produced from an external force, in this case, the products of the second food – the oxygen.

Such a process follows the exact outline of the musical scale explained in the previous post: during the digestive process, it passes from do to re and then to mi, and here it finds the impasse (that in the musical scale is represented by the missing middle tone between mi and fa), and from here, it cannot proceed without the intervention – a shock – of the air.


The Hydrogens

Now, before we continue, we need an interlude in order to introduce the concept of hydrogens. As you had probably noticed, this topic (the transmutation of energy) covers the whole teaching as presented by Gurdjieff. So, in order to make it as clear as possible, such interludes are more than necessary; what is required from the reader is a little patience and attention.

We’ll begin with the Ray of Creation. Such Ray comes from the Absolute. During its descent towards what Gurdjieff called lower worlds, this energy – the Ray, follows a descending octave. As it progressively descends, its vibration diminishes and its density of matter increases. All the elements we know and many of which we ignore its existence, depends on and originates from this process.

At every transition from one world to a lower one, the vibration and the density, which act in an inversely proportional way, are modified according to the Laws that influence them. In other words, as the Ray descends progressively into a lower world, the density of matter increases, and this increase corresponds to an increasing number of Laws that produces such density. This concerns not only every element that composes the world in which we live and can observe with our senses, but also to our inner and psychological world, namely, emotions, thoughts, feelings, and sensations. Indeed, they are also composed from matter, even if more subtle than what we can touch and see.

The different worlds influence each other according to the principles of the Law of Three: in this case, the active force is represented by the carbon, the conservative force by the nitrogen and the neutral or unifying force, by the oxygen. Such interaction of these different forces on matter which is present at a determined point in the universe, generates the raw matter of a determined world (or cosmos), and such matter is represented by the hydrogen.


What should be specified is, that in spite of the fact that many people who follow Gurdjieff’s system, consider these elements as the chemical elements ordinarily known under this name, that they are symbols such as the elements in the Alchemical Tradition. Indeed, agree or not with the following statement, most of the specific language used by Gurdjieff (and glorified by Ouspensky), is of an alchemical nature, and everyone who had studied Alchemy more in-depth, will surely agree with this statement.

So, simplifying the value of the energy as much as possible, depends on the interaction of the three forces in charge (the forces of the Law of Three). We give to this value the name of hydrogen. To summarize, the Absolute has the minimum density, namely, the value of hydrogen 1, while the maximum density corresponds to hydrogen 12.288. Just to make further examples, the food we eat is represented from the hydrogen 768; the hydrogen 384 is the water; the hydrogen 192 is the air we breathe; the hydrogen 96 is the value of fire and the rarefied gasses.

From the density of hydrogen 48, we begin to deal with matters that are not intended as in the ordinary usage by physics and chemistry, but we begin to speak about matters that have a subtle or psychological value, and it’s represented by different types of impressions.


Once more, this is an extreme simplification, but it is useful in giving a clear and consequential idea about the topic of these posts.


In the next post, we’ll see what happens in the human system.



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An Introduction to Gurdjieff’s “Human Factory”: The “Scale of Matter” and the “Three Foods”

Possibly, the most interesting and challenging topic in the teaching of Gurdjieff, is what is commonly known as the “transmutation of energy”. Here, I would like to introduce the first of a series of posts which will be devoted to this argument in a way that is, as best as it can be, understandable, accessible, and without too many complicated and abstract terms, as this is a topic which is perhaps, one of the most cryptic that Gurdjieff had revealed.

In an earlier series of posts, I wrote about the use of the Triads in order to better understand what an action is, and how it is possible to achieve a determined result using the appropriate triad. I will begin from where this series of posts had ended, and continue with the following statement: In order to make any type of conscious action, we need also, the necessary energy to be used. First of all, is the energy that we can absorb into our system, which we can transform in order to make it appropriate for a determined intentional action.

So, let’s try to clarify this argument, beginning with some hints regarding the “scale of matter” related to a human being and his psychophysical system.


Everything that exists possesses a certain degree of density of matter which corresponds to a determined level of vibration. This is related not only to what we can touch with our hands. Thoughts and emotions have also a density and vibration, though certainly a lower density and a higher vibrational level than a stone.

Thus, we can delineate a scale of values on which peak is the lowest possible density of matter and the highest possible vibrational degree. Descending the scale, the vibrations gradually lower, and the density of matter gradually and proportionally increases.


So, to make an example: a piece of lead – a material that is known for its density, will be placed in the lower part on this scale, while an emotion will be placed on a higher part of the same. Of course, this is a simplification to give an idea about what we are going to introduce.

Now, let’s give some values to this scale in order to understand how it’s possible to transform and refine the matter along this scale.


In order to do so, we’ll use the same measure that Gurdjieff had used – the musical scale.

Such as we can notice on the keyboard of a piano, there is a series of frets that represent the musical scale (do, re, mi, fa, sol, la, si) and every seven notes, the sequence is repeated again in the same way. Such series of notes is known as an “octave” to indicate the repetition of the sequence beginning from the eighth note. This musical sequence represents a specific universal principle known as the law of seven, of which we had already mentioned several times on this blog.

The Human Foods

A human being is also composed from many “materials” of different frequency and density; dependent on the energy he receives, a human being functions as a “chemical factory”, which has the tools for elaborating, combining and refining the rough materials it has at disposal. In other words, a human being is able to absorb rough materials and refine them inside of himself. In such a way, the vibratory frequency of these materials increases.

The raw material is the energy that is assimilated by a human being through three means: the food he eats, the air he breathes, and the impressions he receives from the senses.

As it’s known, the food is introduced to the body through the mouth, and digested in the lower part of the body (stomach and intestines). Through the process of digestion, the density of the food is transformed, refined, lowered and filtered in the blood.

The air is absorbed through the nostrils and elaborated in the middle part of the body (the lungs). The oxygen is separated from the air and filtered in the blood such as the food, but this time, the process is much faster, since the air is less dense than the food.

The impressions come from all the sense organs, and are elaborated from the brain. Even here, something more “dense” (sensory stimuli) is refined into something more “subtle” (the emotional responses).

Thus, there are three different types of materials, each of which is elaborated in a different part of the body, which Gurdjieff used to refer to, as a “machine”.

In an ordinary state, such a “machine” is designed exclusively to conserve its own life, but as a “chemical factory” is ineffective because it consumes all that it produces. It’s unable to store or export anything for other purposes than to maintain its life. The possibility for the inner development of an individual depends on the storing of “subtle”, more refined matter produced from its “machine”. So, we must find a solution to enable us to increase the production of energy. A system exists, which is able to allow us, to overcome this insufficiency.

To be continued….


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