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