Gurdjieff’s Diagram of Everything Living

first created: 28 October 2017

Gurdjieff first presented his ideas to groups in pre-revolutionary Russia. Amongst his carefully chosen students it was the habit to reconstruct talks and diagrams as much as possible, an endeavour that gave us a textbook of Gurdjieff’s ideas called In Search of the Miraculous (P.D. Ouspensky, 1950). This early form of the teaching was radically revised and extended by Gurdjieff, now as an author, during the 1920s, producing All and Everything whose part one was Beelzebub’sTales to his Grandson (G.I. Gurdjieff, 1950). Prior to drawing this diagram just after February 1917, Gurdjieff had been presenting ideas about transformation of energies, human and cosmic, using the musical theory surrounding the octave of eight notes. The Diagram of Everything Living was “still another system of classification… in an altogether different ratio of octaves… [that] leads us beyond the limits of what we call ‘living beings’ both higher [and lower] than living beings. It deals not with individuals but with classes in a very wide sense.”

Figure 1 The Diagram of Everything Living

The diagram has eleven units connected in macro steps three units high and three units deep, and each unit is itself a class, a terminology which J.G. Bennett evidently expanded into his theory of twelve essence classes where each class was an ipseity or “thing in itself”, modelled by Bennett using a five-term systematics called the pentad (see appendix 2 The Great Laws to Gurdjieff: Making a New World, by Bennett,1973). Differences between eleven units and twelve can be irrelevent when, as with the octave where seven intervals link eight notes, eleven intervals can lie between twelve boundaries.

Figure 2 On the right, the five-term systematic (Pentad) as conceived by J. G. Bennett and on the left, the section of the Diagram of Everything Living relating to the human essence class.
The yellow “hydrogens” naturally correlate the human to beings above and below.

The lower nine square units each have three circles filled with a number whose factors are 2^n times 3 and these numbers define levels of Hydrogen corresponding with (left) the being itself, (bottom) what it needs to eat and (top) what is nourished by it and larger numbers are lesser beings. One can immediately correlate the right hand elements as forming the outer significance or context of the being. One can see in man that 24 must be doubled twice to reach his food of 96, and the intermediate hydogen is that of the beings below him, the vertebrates. Similarly, what he nourishes is doubly halved as 6, and 12 is the level of the next higher being. Thus the inner range of potentiality of the essence class Man is between the animal (48) and the angelic (12) so that the pentad is clearly prefigured in this Diagram and Bennett’s system of twelve essence classes. Bennett’s The Great Laws should be read alongside, noting that Ouspensky, present when the Diagram was first drawn, was for many years Bennett’s teacher. The group receiving the Diagram thought perhaps angels and archangels were planets and stars and Gurdjieff said of it “This diagram will not be very comprehensible to you at first. But gradually you will learn to make it out. Only for a long time you will have to take it separately from all the rest.”

The Geometrical Archetypes of Heaven

The upper two diagrams of the highest steps will be correlated with cosmic information. Most distinctive is the topmost Absolute and it is of an equilateral triangle drawn within a circle and a circle drawn within that. geometrically this is an invariant relationship between two circles of radial doubling, that is the inner circle is half the diameter of the outer circle’s diameter, reminding us of the Diagram’s doubling theme. John Martineau made a detailed survey of such invariant ratios found within sacred geometrical constructions, published as A Book of Coincidence. (Wooden Books , 1998.). He also looked at the nearest, mean and furthest orbital distances of planets from the sun and found the equilateral geometry between Saturn and Uranus’ mean orbits (ratio 2.01121) and in a more complex form, Saturn and Neptune, the outermost planet.

Figure 3 The Equilateral Doubling of circles is found between the three outer planets Saturn, Uranus and Jupiter.  The central picture shows both equilateral relationships superimposed at the same scale with the sun at the centre and based upon mean orbital distances from the sun.
[from data and geometries of John Martineau, A Bookof Coincidence,1998.]

This geometry is that of the ABSOLUTE given in the Diagram whilst the ETERNAL UNCHANGING geometry could have been that given by Martineau, as Being the relationship between Jupiter and Saturn.No geometrical connection between the circles was given and quite possibly, the square that linked them was not noticed and remembered by the students. This geometry is figure 4.

Figure 4 How the square relates the orbits of Jupiter and Saturn,
a detail easily lost on, and perhaps left unrecorded by those unfamiliar with sacred geometry.

In some unfamiliar way, numbers are associated with the form of how the Creation works and of course geometry is one of the number sciences, in which numbers define invariant structures only possible when there is an existential reality involving space, things within space and distances in between them.Proportion is born to a world of forces which could tear it apart and yet the world of number is invariant, one could say transcendent (ABSOLUTE) whilst also being unmoving (FIRM).

Between these two is something like the Diagram of Everything Living in which transcendent power of numbers and invariant form are blended, as we see in the nature of diagrams. The diagram is part of the human essence class, a combination of number, form and aesthetics designed to represent. It moves towards the higher nature of humanity and delves into cosmic archetypes. The role of diagrams is largely degenerate as also the role of numbers in modern societies, where both are ten-a-penny and merely record or express. In the Diagram of Everything Living therefore everything finds its own level according to its manifestations whilst the Diagram looks on.

Beelzebub’s Tales relied on a form of words rather than of this Diagram, as Gurdjieff went back to his father’s roots as a teller of tales in an oral tradition spanning five millennia. Bennett opens his Appendix II (to Making a New World) on The Great Laws:

“Our customary way of thinking and talking about the world is in terms of objects and events, both of which are abstractions. Gurdjieff saw the world as the universal process of transformation of energies, regulated by two fundamental laws and various ‘second-grade’ laws arising from their interaction. The two basic realities are relations and transformations. The first are governed by the Law of Threefoldness variously called Triamonia and Triamazikamno and the second by the Law of Sevenfoldness called Eftalogodiksis or Heptaparaparshinokh. The interaction of these two laws is represented by the Enneagram symbol and by the Diagram of All Living referred to in Chapter 11. It is also noteworthy that Gurdjieff refers in the Purgatory Chapter to a scale of energies of different ‘degrees of vivifyingness’, which is divided into twelve steps or stages.” [emboldening is added for terms]

Bennett remarks that Gurdjieff seems to follow Plato’s Pythagoreanism (in Timaeus) by using only products of two and three, omitting use of prime numbers five, seven and eleven. Five would be necessary to embody the Just intonation of ancient near eastern music and seven and eleven are further crucial to the Model of the Earth and other operations in which pi can be assumed to be 22/7.

” [Gurdjieff] departs however from the Platonic tradition in his description of Reciprocal Maintenance (viz. the Pentad of figure 2 and harnelmiatznel) which has no place in Greek cosmology and did not enter European thinking until Gurdjieff came to the West. … nevertheless we can find traces in the Rosicrucian literature of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries … when the Khwajagan (lit. Masters of Wisdom) had finished their work in Central Asia and were handing on their knowledge to various Sufi brotherhoods … and probably also to European societies with the same fundamental aim.”

In Robert Fludd: Hermetic philosopher and surveyor of two worlds, Joscelyn Godwin wrote

“[Robert Fludd] lived at the very end of the [Renaissance] era in which it was possible for one mind to encompass the whole of learning … and he betrays something approaching despair in his endless plans for a magnum opus…. in place of [the modern view] of an infinite material cosmos expanding in all directions, he could envisage a few well-defined regions and then terminated in the utter simplex of God.” In this view, Fludd was not transmitting Rosicrucian ideas which may have come from a common origin to those of Gurdjieff.

Figure 5 Robert Fludd’s diagram of Macrocosm (Cosmos) and Microcosm (Man), interpreted by superimposition of (left) eternity-unchanging of Saturn-Jupiter orbits and (right) by Bennett’s pentad in which head and hands touch the inner cosmic band and feet the outer significance of the macrocosmos as a whole.

Bennett continues “the Rosicrucian symbol of the pentad which appears in Dr Fludd’s Systema Universi corresponds exactly to the ‘Diagram of All Living’ and hence to the structure of the Trogoautoegocrat (or principle of Reciprocal Maintenance). The same work contains the doctrine of the quintessence and transformation. Every cosmic manifestation has its higher and lower natures, the interaction of which produces the quintessence. This is also Gurdjieff’s teaching expressed in the statement(Beelzebub’s Tales. p. 763) “The Higher blends with the Lower to actualise the Middle”. The pentad symbol is:”

Figure 6 J G Bennett’s compressed version of a Pentad for the essence class Man. from Making a New World: AppendixII.

Bennett writes: “By placing the five terms at different levels in the diagram, we indicate the five nodal points. Reading from left to right, we show three kinds of relationships:

  1. What it is in itself; the quintessence.
  2. The essence classes from which and to which it evolves.
  3. How it enters into the Trogoautoegocratic process.” [Making a New World, 281-282]

The form of this idea is invariant whilst its manifestations including diagrams can be various and, in Gurdjieff: Making a New World and The Masters of Wisdom, Bennett presents his own search for its origins in the neolithic revolution of Persia identified with the original prophet Zoroaster. Bennett thought the principle of Reciprocal Maintenance was articulated as the first cities came to be dependent upon agriculture. Bennett has a final word, related to our subject: the Diagram of Everything Living:

“The Cosmic Individuality is directly associated with the Creation and Maintenance of the World. In Gurdjieff’s symbol this is called the Eternal Unchanging: in Beelzebub’s Tales it is the Trogoautoegocrat, which in some passages Gurdjieff personifies as the Holy Spirit. This is the eleventh and penultimate stage in the creation and redemption of the world. One can sense Gurdjieff’s difficulty in conveying the picture of a cosmic process that is also a state of being. The Trogoautoegocrat is not part of the Creation, but a manifestation of the Divine Will whereby time and eternity are reconciled.” (Making a New World, 213)

The Pentadic Structure of Cities

Bearing this in mind, it is interesting to put flesh on the bones of the pentad by looking at the nature of the ancient middle eastern cities, with emphasis on the city states begun by the Sumerians in Mesopotamia. Cities had a God and a king (archangels) whilst their existence depended upon the surpluses created by ploughing the soil (invertebrates) and farming with animals (vertibrates), these two enabling more than subsistence. Cities and the farming needed for surpluses naturally creates property ownership and trade, especially as a social hierarchy develops of leaders and specialists (angels). The leaders and specialists came to depend upon information in order to preserve knowhow and recorded ownership and trade, whilst heroic myths and historic legends reenforce legitimacy and establish values.The land and the city became fused in a sacredization of the landscape connecting earth to the heavens and gods. Farming methods meant that in some fashion the solar calendar needed to run alongside the prehistoric lunar calendar. War (between cities) became conflated with Sacrifices to the city gods.

Figure 7 Application of the Pentad to the reality of ancient near-eastern cities

The discipline of the five-term pentad gives insights as to what the essence class of the city is. Cities must be a development of the human essence-class since they facilitate some of the potentials (the inner range) of the human essence-class, through creating proxies for the angels and archangels of the Diagram we are considering. This would also apply to Greek cities, and the Mexican cities of the Olmec and Maya. By creating proxies for the higher essence classes,useful specialists come into existence such as tradesmen, soldiers, traders, supervisors, and scribes. But the fact that these”upper classes” develop makes them dead-ringers for representing the higher worlds, as is seen when religious ideas and religious specialisms arise within them. Their work concerns the heroic myths, sacrifices and sacredization of the calendar and landscape – all of which emanate from the god-king. Bennett called this period in the ancient world the Hemitheandric epoch (3200 to 800 BC), where special humans, heroes and priest-kings, were believed to have superhuman attributes and powers enabling them to act as intermediary between the gods and ordinary people (Dramatic Universe. volume 4. 307-10,324, 438.). And so on….