We went up to Ithaca this weekend to see my daughter at Cornell. This morning I found myself awake at 6 a.m. in a very expensive but exceedingly modest motel room bed, staring up into the darkness and thinking about atmosphere.
All of you who are familiar with this blog will know that I often come back to the idea that everything we need to know regarding the possibilities of inner development can be gleaned from studying, and attempting to understand, nature. This is, I believe, why one of Gurdjieff's five "Oblogolnian strivings" was the study of the laws of world-creation and world-maintenance. Dogen is no different- he believes that every arising we encounter, no matter what it is, fully expresses the dharma--that is, all Truth is entire contained within and expressed by every element of nature.
Back to atmosphere.
We all form inner atmospheres as we grow older. This atmosphere is composed of "elements"- impressions- that have fallen into the gravity well of our being and remained, more or less, on the surface of our various "inner planets," or centers.
In the Gurdjieff work we call these collective "surface elements" of man's being personality.
Every planet in the actual (outer) solar system has a "personality." Jupiter, for example, acquired a dense atmosphere composed mostly of hydrogen. Mars has a thin atmosphere; earth a thicker one; and so on. In each case, what can take place on the surface of the planet- its ability to support organic life, for example--is determined by the atmosphere. So atmosphere determines the potential for growth.
In the same way, what we acquire and incorporate into our personality over the course of a lifetime helps to determine what can take place beneath the outer layers of our various inner atmospheres. Personality is just as much a part of the whole being as is essence, and ego--and, even more importantly, it becomes a vital determinant factor in regard to the question of what can come in.If personality forms one way, a man may be able to acquire much more new material than if it forms in another. We have all seen this. In a real sense it has something to do with the initial, or exoteric, and even the mesoteric question of being "open" or "closed."
Now, every center in man contributes to the assembly of what we call personality. Thus, every center's "atmosphere" plays a role in the overall composition of the system.
As we get older, the coating of personality over the centers and their parts becomes more dense. Eventually some of the material--impressions--we would like to take into our various inner planets begins to burn up as it enters the atmosphere.
The impressions urgently ought to be reaching deeper into the system, falling on and even penetrating the surface of the inner planets or centers, and contributing to their development by bringing vital new elements to them. Elements which would contribute to an inner alchemy that unites the planets around a "sun" and creates a complete inner solar system.
The problem is that we haven't taken impressions in deep enough all along. They have consequently formed a thick "rejecting layer" around our inner parts.
Now, of course, all of this is analogy and there is a great deal of further conceptualization and pondering that could be done on this subject. All I am doing here is sketching the idea out so that readers can try to take it out into the world and examine it in real-life circumstances. In addition, it is probably best to try not to become quite too literal about it, because that would create a rigidity that might sabotage some of the potential intuitive insights available in this concept.
In the past I've referred to this chemical problem within us as the "rejecting part." I always assumed, upon observing it in myself, that the part in me that rejects things from outside--which is fear-based, no doubt, and probably regulated largely by chief feature-- is essentially psychological in nature. It is only recently that the question of what it means physicallyand what it means chemically have occurred to me.
So where does this take us?
Fear has a chemical and a physical basis related to the composition of our inner solar system.
We urgently need to allow things to enter us more deeply. What is it that prevents it? Can we have an effect on it?
I think we need to see our atmosphere a bit more clearly, and begin to take more responsibility for it.