An essay by Richard Heath
published in DuVersity Magazine no 36 by Anthony Blake


In order to think about the cosmic world one has to recognise that it is more than the world of life found on the earth and the living world, or biosphere, is most probably a result of how the cosmic world organised evolution on the earth.


The cosmic world is made up of large bodies; planets and the suns around which planets orbit with sophisticated, some say musical, regularity. However, the cosmic world shares with the living world the basic stuff of materiality, that is the atoms and molecules under the sway of various type of force field.  The world of material stuff and forces is characteristically less complex than that exhibited in life and therefore seems "less than" or below life, leading to John Bennett's naming of it as being hyponomic (literally "under laws "). Bennett then called the world of Life autonomic and, since Life arises within a cosmic structure, this higher world was termed hypernomic ("above laws"). Bennett's prefix scheme, of hypo-, auto- and hypernomic, divides the whole universe into three naturally different types of structures.


Threefold Manifestation: The light triangle of the Trinity represents God, who remains 'beyond all things', entering the black hole of matter (hyle). As a result, three worlds arise: the angelic (empyrean), stellar (ethereal), and elemental.
Robert Fludd by Joscelyn Godwin, Thames & Hudson (Shambhala: Boulder, 1979, page 52)


The sky appears as the realm of the hypernomic ‘above’ life on earth with celestial bodies moving across it in various patterns. As far as we know, humanity has always projected onto the celestial bodies some kind of a role in their own everyday affairs and watched the gods of the sky portraying their own dramas. All early religious ideas appear based upon seeing cosmic bodies as gods which were involved in the fate of human beings and groups even beyond life, after death. Even today, monotheistic religion may have discarded the sky gods but it has retained the role of God in the fate of human life and the status of people in an afterlife in heaven, a concept originating in the actual heavens literally above Life.


In Bennett's terminology therefore, religious ideas and those concerning an afterlife, after death, are tied to the hypernomic world within which Life has evolved, despite the conceptualisation of monotheistic religion. But are our ideas of religion and death tied to the hypernomic world through human projection, as anthropologists insist, or is the hypernomic world actually shaping these ideas? Could it be that this distinctive invariance in human beliefs concerning religion and death, found in some form wherever human cultures established themselves, is actually a manifestation of the hypernomic world in human life?


Perhaps "human projection in seeking answers in the sky" and "hypernomic realities relating to the purpose of Life" are two sides of the same coin and this may explain why early human societies of the ancient near east and of megalithic Europe, turned to the skies to both understand the dynamism of its clockwork and to seek answers as to why existence was as it is to strive to answer a question Gurdjieff formulated as his own: "What is the sense and purpose of life and human life in particular?".


A very interesting question arose historically as to whether being alive was good or whether it was a fallen state of ourselves. This has become somewhat degenerate due to the assumption that humans already have a soul formed and, in a sense, this second question pre-empts the first by implying a negative answer to it; for there can be no "sense and purpose" to life if humans are fallen, apart perhaps from recovering (if possible) from that fall. In other words, the doctrine of original sin is toxic to Gurdjieff's big question.


It seems as if religion has got too wrapped up in the issues of selfhood. One can see that one's own self is actually complemented by another non-self, in the form of one's life or "circumstance". The religious idea that one can die, redeemed by a super-being, because you have been righteous, or that one can escape life's challenges (or purpose) through turning from the world towards a monastery or system of self-development avoids "the elephant in the room" which is your fate, wrapped up in the form of your necessary life experiences. Gurdjieff was very clear in saying "The best conditions for a man's development are those provided by Life"


The reason why religion and death are likely felt through the hypernomic world is because it represents a different part of a cosmic triad. The material stuff of the hyponomic world provides all the functionality required within the Universe and so seems related to what Bennett termed Function, within his triad Function-Being-Will. The three realms of the hyponomic, autonomic and hypernomic correspond to these three fundamental categories. The living stuff of the autonomic world creates all the players on a highly specific stage, the biosphere, and these players are the created beings belonging to a world of beings "similar to the already arisen" i.e. cosmic beings. Beings get their substance from the hyponomic world and their pattern from the hypernomic world, and form a reconciling (autonomous) principle, requiring a type of Being not created with the universe.


At death a created being either becomes a non-being, another being or nothing at all. To become a non-being, one must be able to subsist without a living body and this brings us to the third principle of Will. Whilst alive, one subsists due to the biosphere and hence due to the will of the biosphere which partakes of hypernomic reality. As Bennett reportedly said in reply to someone who said they loved nature (or the biosphere), "It is not you who loves Nature, it is Nature that loves you." To ‘have will’ is to be more than your life, to "die before you die" and it is through a transformation of the circumstances associated with ourselves.


Religious thought has its origin in wanting to be hypernomic or cosmic. There is some "strange attractor" at work in the human psyche which would want to “leave the biosphere” in the sense of not relying upon the biospheric will to subsist (perhaps echoed in the dream of space travel).


Religious texts often have gods speaking to the human world but it is unlikely that the hypernomic communicates directly to autonomic minds. Instead, what is much more likely is that the hypernomic "speaks" to the human pattern which characterises each individual human psyche, a pattern from beyond Life. The circumstances of a human life, the "other" rather than the "self", has some relationship to the hypernomic world, being part of the hypernomic world through its human pattern. Therefore the individual striving for transcendence can be considered as taking place within a narrative possible only because of the circumstances of one's life, as put by Spanish existentialist philosopher Ortega y Gasset: "I am myself and my circumstance, or surroundings". Ortega appears to be stating the obvious but in a usefully exact way: that the ego or self is effectively a part of the objects within consciousness, without which nothing would mean anything. Indeed, can there be consciousness without objects? More to the point; can the objects, relationships, institutions, etc., “out there”, as the "Other", be there to reveal the human pattern in life and its best path of development?


The possible unification of self and non-self (one's circumstance) leads naturally to the notion of a spiritual journey within "the world", often formalised as a pilgrimage but essentially being a series of steps towards developing attunement to the hypernomic world and therefore reducing dependence upon the biospheric sources of will (the values that move it), such as comfort, reproduction, wealth, power and so on. However, the weak part of the equation is what one expects from God or the gods in return for such renunciation, since to enter the hypernomic must be a strengthening of will but will must have an objective other than merely pleasing the gods.


It is obvious that "relationship to surroundings" is somehow a key to "relationship to the hyponomic world". Gurdjieff proposed that our deeper impressions of the world contain elements of the higher worlds of the hypernomic, but all mixed up and only discernible to a consciousness having a similar "vibratory character" to that higher world to which such an impression belongs. This is a very important characteristic of Gurdjieff's teaching, that higher worlds are compresent within our surroundings, this having resonance with an early Christianity in which "But the Kingdom of the Father is spread upon the Earth, but men see it not" [gospel of Thomas Log 113].


Just as a donkey in a library does not see books and cannot read them, a person without the will or "vibratory character" of the hypernomic world cannot make sense of those impressions within their situation. In a world in which the ego is trained from birth to focus on what it wants or what others want, and reject what it dislikes, there is evidently a need to look beyond the boundaries of what selves can do and to look instead at what is possible in the situation that may not be what one simply desires; a development presented by Gurdjieff in Beelzebub's Tales as a movement from attending to one's desires towards attending to non-desires. As a Sufi once put it: "Intelligence is in the situation" indicating that intelligence is not just in the selfhood, as is conventionally thought today.


Religion is doing; a man does not merely think his religion or feel it, he “lives” his religion as much as he is able, otherwise it is not religion but fantasy or philosophy. George Ivanovich Gurdjieff (1866 –1949)



Addendum - The Role of Death in Ancient Art and Literature


Preparations for death were an important reason for the creation and dissemination of an ancient Model of the cosmos, which had the earth at its centre (being the location of life) and an earth divided into three regions: Heaven in the North, Life in the Equatorial regions and Hades/Hell to the South. The dead were thought to transmigrate to heaven or hell, long after monotheism had dislocated such destinations from the ancient Model as cosmic regions.


The road travelled after death was along the sun’s path (or ecliptic/zodiac) where this connected with the two junctions of spring and autumn equinox, the celestial earth (our present Equator when projected into the starry sky) there crossing the ecliptic. The Galaxy formed a further ‘great circle’ in the sky, seen to cross the zodiac at two further points; in the last third of the signs of Sagittarius and Gemini. These two pairs of cross-over locations were thought part of a cosmic mechanism or Mill that was slowly drifting due to the Precession of the Equinoxes, moving one sign every 2160 years. In some configurations, the dead had problems during their transmigration whilst the living were also thought to be less blessed than at other golden or silver Ages, exactly due to the Earth’s orientation to the Galaxy. By the Classical Greek period the full details of this Model had been forgotten. 

The deceased were thought to benefit from knowledge of these structural niceties, a knowledge instilled orally, and through cultural exposure to a wide range of relatively oblique references within mythic tales, rituals and religious symbolisms. The technical nature of the Model meant its truth could not be imparted by direct reason to ordinary people, who instead had to receive it within the pattern of their cultural life. So, whilst ancient myths, books of the dead, pyramid/coffin texts, and religious practices throughout the ancient world are found to have recognisable similarities, this hides a common religious invariance shaped by the hypernomic world, thought corresponding to human experiences after death, in which the Model was thought to become a cosmic reality.

Imago Mortis 500


From Music of the Spheres and the Dance of Death
by Kathi Meyer-Baer, Princeton UP:New Jersey, 1970







Notes for Gurdjieffians

by Richard Heath1

How does the cosmos figure with respect to the third stopinder[2]? The third stopinder involves gaining necessary food, of three sorts, from the biospheric environment. As we experience this; the “third being food” are impressions (some form of interaction with information) arising in one's circumstance. This “third being food” can contain information taken to be direct facts but they may also involve far from obvious patterns and sequences. In Beelzebub's Tales, Gurdjieff says the third stopinder, on earth for man, requires an extra "subjective action" relative to a normal musical semitone; in a presentation of the Work as relating to the musical form of an octave. Ancient texts also presented the universe as harmonic, but initially as being Pythagorean, that is one based only upon the relations between one (technically unity), and the numbers two and three in ratio, in a cosmos based upon harmonic principles.



Symmetrical Octave generated using only ratios involving Two and Three

The gods presented in the Rg Veda for example, through the god Indra, add the further influence of the number five through a small lengthening of musical intervals involving the syntonic comma, of 81/80[3]. This enabled the Pythagorean semitone of 256/243 to be transformed into 16/15, the semitone which Gurdjieff presented in the “Russian version" of his own harmonic cosmology around 1914-16[4]. This syntonic comma simplifies the intervals required to achieve an octave doubling, only requiring two types of whole tone, the Pythagorean of 9/8 and the Just of 10/9; in what is called the diatonic octave or Just tuning system. It was this type of octave which Gurdjieff presented in Russia as forming the diatonic planetary context of the earth, meaning that the octaves found in our modal music parallel those of the cosmos, being just one of the “similarities to the already arisen”[5] encountered within the biosphere. 

 HeptaparaparshinockDiatonic for Web

Diatonic or Just Octave in myth generated by the Planetary Gods

Gurdjieff later proposed in Beelzebub’s Tales a third stopinder (a semitone[6]) which is enlarged relative to the diatonic. He indicated that man must somehow make this third stopinder (and first semitone) of 16/15 larger, which would again be by 81/80 so as to become 27/25. This implies a common "subjective action" for the gods and man, the syntonic comma, at least emblematic of some sort of transformative effort, the first being an effort required by the planetary gods who arose with the planetary system and the second an effort required within the biosphere, which came after the planetary creation and was only achieved through the formation and harmonisation of the Moon[7] (as detailed in Beelzebub's Tales) and through the evolution of “three-brained beings”. 

Figure 6-10-for-web


Heptaparaparshinock in the context of Ancient Near Eastern Harmonic Theory

Life then, as "similarities to the already arisen", must eat and be eaten. These "similarities" are forms of eternity[8], found as the forms and patterns that Life receives from a range of cosmic vibrations when not "just reflected"[9] by a dead planet but, like light, absorbed by the biosphere. When eaten these vibrations can be transformed into the sort of ideas formative to ancient civilisations but now lost or obscure to modern thought. But nothing can be lost if it was previously found within the biosphere, whose systemic attribute was identified by John Bennett as expressing completeness[10]. This implies one can re-discover/ recover past knowledge if one can provide the right "subjective action" to set up a null interval within the independent dimension he called eternity.

To summarise: The "subjective action" of the third stopinder is to recognise eternity within food, within the role of the biosphere and the role of man in particular: To eat in order to receive[11]. The wholetone stopinders of Gurdjieff’s later Heptaparaparshinock represented the necessary types of human work on Earth and their natural sequence, whilst its two semitones are shared by man; the first with the Cosmos and the second with God.



[1] This essay builds on chapters 5 and 6 of the author's Precessional Time and the Evolution of Consciousness, Rochester,Vt: Inner Traditions, 2011.

[2] Gurdjieff’s word for a type of work when considered as resembling a musical interval, in All and Everything, Beelzebub’s Tales to His Grandson, 1st English Edition, page 753-754: London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1973.

[3] The achievement of the planetary creation is the creation of a food making the gods immortal: “The concept of an immortality drink is attested in at least two Indo-European areas: Greek and Sanskrit. The Greek ἀμβροσία (ambrosia) is semantically linked to the Sanskrit अमृत(amṛta) as both words denote a drink or food that gods use to achieve immortality.” Wikipedia. In contrast, the achievement of the whole Creation is its relative independence from the Will of its Creator.

[4] Reported verbatim within In Search of the Miraculous by P. D. Ouspensky (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1980), a chronology for which is given within Index to In Search of the Miraculous by A.G.E Blake, Charlestown, WV: DuVersity Publications, 2nd Ed. 2003.

[5] Ernest McClain has been instrumental in revealing the origins and scope of Plato’s musical theory in his The Pythagorean Plato (Maine, NY: Nicolas-Hays, 1978) and, more popularly, in his Myth of Invariance (Maine, NY: Nicolas-Hays, 1976).

[6] If the cosmic mode is based upon C major.

[7] The biosphere and its human beings are (a) separated from the Absolute as Something by the gods but (b) closer to the Absolute as Nothing through the Moon. As a consequence, the gods have Being in the sense of being created to be something, this perhaps explaining why the human being can only gain Being through seeing their own nothingness.

[8] Eternity is a definite term evolved by Bennett to characterise the world of eternal patterns which are seen recurring within ordinary time, but in fact belonging in another dimension that is both space-like and time-like.

[9] Gurdjieff puts it:“This means that the planetary radiations carrying various influences to the earth are not able to reach it, or, to speak more correctly, they are not received, the earth reflects them” In Search of the Miraculous (details in note 4), page 132, para 1.

[10] The biosphere is an intelligence reliant on cosmic creativity for its continuing creation. Conversely, the biosphere provides a reconciliation of the cosmic and material levels within the Ray of Creation.

[11] The idea of food from above is associated in widespread “similarities” within myths about the sacrifice of, typically, Purusha, the body of a primeval man or of a slain bull, who is ritually eaten, a tradition spanning the Upper Palaeolithic until the Catholic Eucharist*. The man can be seen as the constellation Orion and the bull as the "Bull of Heaven" which was killed by Gilgamesh’s primitive friend Enkidu, who then prefigures the bull-slaying Mithras. *note the parallelism within this: "The seven sacraments—Baptism, Confirmation, Holy Communion, Confession, Marriage, Holy Orders, and the Anointing of the Sick—are the life of the Catholic Church.", where the third sacrament is Holy Communion